WASHINGTON | Another disappointing loss took the luster off Angel Pagan’s monumental night.
Pagan hit an inside-the-park home run and started a triple play Wednesday night, but that wasn’t enough for the New York Mets in a 5-3 loss to the Washington Nationals.
Seated in a folding chair in front of his locker after the game, Pagan hardly felt like his achievements meant anything at all.
“We lost the game,” he said softly. “It would have been better if we won the game. It would have been a lot of fun. Unfortunately, we didn’t win.”
Pagan became the first player in 55 years to take part in both feats in the same game. Despite his accomplishments, the Mets lost for the ninth time in 11 games.
“It’s going to be tough for us to put together any kind of offense,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. “We are really, really struggling right now in that area. I thought … today would be a good day for us to break out. I saw some real good signs. But it didn’t happen.”
Pagan hit the first inside-the-park home run in Nationals Park history in the fourth inning. An inning later, the center fielder’s shoestring catch led to the Mets’ first triple play since 2002.
“I was just trying to play the game hard. It didn’t matter because we lost,” Pagan said.
Phillies shortstop Ted Kazanski was the last player to do both, on Sept. 25, 1955, for Philadelphia against the New York Giants, the Elias Sports Bureau said. That was also the last time a team pulled a triple play and hit an inside-the-parker in the same game, Elias said.
Pagan’s daily double didn’t surprise Manuel.
“He’s probably our best athlete. … Over the years, he’s been off the charts in that area,” Manuel said.
Pagan’s homer came in Washington’s third season at its ballpark. His second career inside-the-parker came on a drive off the center-field wall. Nyjer Morgan couldn’t make a leaping grab and Pagan scampered around the bases, sliding home safely ahead of a relay by shortstop Ian Desmond.
When third base coach Chip Hale windmilled him around third, Pagan acknowledged he was a little surprised.
“I knew the ball hit the wall. I was kind of slowing down when I was rounding third, so when (Hale) told me to go, I (sighed) and kind of threw the anchor,” Pagan said. “I got kind of slow right there.”
After making an earlier diving grab to rob Roger Bernadina of an extra-base hit, Pagan started the 10th triple play in Mets history.
The Nationals put runners on first and second in the fifth and Cristian Guzman hit a sinking liner that Pagan rushed in to catch.
The runners, expecting the ball to drop, kept going and Pagan overthrew second, his peg reaching home. Catcher Henry Blanco tossed the ball to shortstop Jose Reyes at second base to double off Livan Hernandez. Reyes relayed to first baseman Ike Davis to catch Morgan.
“It was a tough catch, but I made it. I told (the umpire), I was pointing that I caught the ball in case they missed it,” Pagan said. “I was just going after the triple play, but I don’t know if they called a no-catch. I just told Reyes to step on second and throw to first base.”
Morgan, standing on second and unsure of what had happened, was a sitting duck.
“It looked like (Pagan) kind of trapped it from my view,” Morgan said. “Basically, the umpires kind of waited a little bit to get the call. … I was just waiting for the call, but in my view, it just kind of looked like the ball hit the ground before it went into his mitt.”
Crew chief Tim Tschida briefly huddled with the other base umpires before affirming the call.
The Mets’ last triple play came May 17, 2002, against San Diego, an around-the-horn play on a groundball by Wiki Gonzalez. The last time the Montreal/Washington franchise hit into a triple play was July 28, 2002, when Vladimir Guerrero of the Expos hit a line drive to Florida third baseman Mike Lowell.
Lost in Pagan’s twin feats was the end of Washington’s season-high five-game skid.
The Nationals broke a 2-all tie with a three-run seventh. Bernadine hit a check-swing leadoff double down the left-field line against Raul Valdes (1-1) and scored on pinch-hitter Adam Kennedy’s sacrifice fly off reliever Fernando Nieve.
“You got to get a break now and then,” Washington manager Jim Riggleman said. “Roger check-swinged a double down the left-field line. That’s the thing that had not been going our way a little bit … and it went our way tonight.”
Guzman added an RBI triple and scored on Ryan Zimmerman’s single.
Rookie Drew Storen (1-0) got the final two outs of the seventh for his first major league victory. Matt Capps got the final three outs for his major league-leading 15th save despite allowing Fernando Tatis’ solo homer.
Washington got to Mets starter R.A. Dickey, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Buffalo before the game, for two runs in the fourth.
The knuckleball specialist allowed singles to Guzman and Zimmerman before walking Adam Dunn to load the bases. Josh Willingham followed with a tying single and Bernadina had a sacrifice fly, with Pagan making a diving catch in left-center.
The Mets tied it in the sixth when Jeff Francoeur hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly.
NOTES: Pagan’s other inside-the-park homer came Aug. 23, 2009, against the Phillies’ Pedro Martinez. … Dunn returned to the Nationals lineup after missing three games with an undisclosed ailment. … Slumping 3B David Wright was held out of the Mets lineup, which included Davis as the cleanup hitter for the first time. The rookie went 1 for 4. Manuel said Wright would return to the lineup Thursday and that either Reyes or 2B Luis Castillo would be rested. … The last triple play in Washington came Sept. 10, 1964, when the Senators turned a 6-4-3-2 gem against the Orioles. The last inside-the-park homer in D.C. came May 12, 2007, by Washington’s Austin Kearns against Florida.