CINCINNATI -- Angel Pagan's sensational diving catch came at a price. By the time the center fielder got back to the Giants dugout, the celebration that awaited him was perilous.
"Oh, man," the center fielder said. "I got punched. I got pushed. I got so many high fives."
If the moment was painful for Pagan, imagine what it felt like for the Cincinnati Reds, who watched the Giants make several brilliant defensive plays to cling to a 6-4 victory in Game 5 in the National League Division Series.
Two batters before Pagan, shortstop Brandon Crawford added his own rally-crushing catch. And catcher Buster Posey pulled the plug on another Reds threat by throwing out a runner trying to steal in the sixth.
"In this type of ballgame, you have to be on the top of your game. You have to be heads up on every play," Pagan said. "It was a very good ballgame for us defensively."
In terms of both style points and degree of difficulty, no play was bigger than Pagan's. The Giants led 6-3 with two out in the eighth, but the Reds had the tying run at the plate after Scott Rolen and Todd Frazier singled off reliever Santiago Casilla.
Manager Bruce Bochy summoned reliever Sergio Romo to face pinch hitter Dioner Navarro.
As the crowd of 44,142 finally made some noise, Pagan silently assessed the situation.
"I thought that Navarro was a line drive hitter, so I had to give myself an opportunity to make a play," said the center fielder,
Navarro smacked a low liner to almost straightaway center field. Because of his excellent positioning, Pagan didn't have to range to his right or left. Instead, he took off on a dead run in the direction of home plate before leaping forward to pluck Navarro's drive just inches from the turf.
When the ball smacked his glove, he did a barrel roll and popped up with his right fist already raised in celebration.
"Man, I think I got pumped up before I got there," Pagan said, "I was anticipating the play. I wanted that ball to be hit to me. That's how you make those plays: You anticipate the play."
Like Pagan's, Crawford's play depended largely on him being in the right place -- in the lineup, for example. Bochy had considered benching Crawford in favor of Joaquin Arias.
Crawford was 0 for 7 heading into Game 5, but the manager ultimately concluded that he wanted his best defensive shortstop on the field.
"I slept on it," Bochy said. "And I'm glad I stuck with him."
With one on and one out, Ryan Hanigan lined a shot to the right of Crawford, who made a graceful backhanded grab.
The shortstop said he was trying to reward the manager for letting him play with the season the line.
"Just to hear that he had that faith in me was all that I needed to hear," Crawford said.
Posey's defensive gem came not with his glove but with his arm. With runners at first and second in the sixth, Reds manager Dusty Baker put the runners in motion on a full-count pitch to Hanigan.
But Hanigan took a called strike three on the outside corner and Posey rifled the ball to third in time to get Jay Bruce, who stole nine bases during the regular season.
It wasn't close, even though Posey double-clutched on his throw. "Couldn't get the grip," Posey said.
In the end, though, the Giants defense held on.