NEW YORK -- On a night when everyone wanted to talk about Carlos Beltran's return to Queens, Angel Pagan took the opportunity to remind you that the New York Mets still have a pretty good center fielder manning spacious Citi Field right now.
Pagan went 4-for-6 with four RBIs and three runs scored in the Mets' 14-6 rout of the Tigers on Tuesday night, hours after the team announced that Beltran would take the first step toward returning to the Mets by playing in a Class A game Thursday.
The Mets beat up Tigers ace Justin Verlander for five runs on five hits in two-plus innings. Pagan threw the first punch with an RBI triple in the bottom of the first. They then roughed up the Tigers' bullpen for nine runs, including five charged to rookie reliever Jay Sborz, who was making his major league debut.
The 14 runs scored were a season high for the Mets, and the most they'd scored since a 15-6 win over the Yankees on June 27, 2008. They also established a season high for runs in an inning with eight in the bottom of the third, which was interrupted by a 58-minute rain delay.
"Today was just a fun day for the hitters," said Ike Davis, who had two hits in the third and finished 3-for-6 with three RBIs.
The Mets bounced back with a win after losing the final two games of the Subway Series, and have now won nine of their past 11 games to improve to 40-30, just 1½ games behind division-leading Atlanta in the NL East.
"We just kept adding on and adding on tonight, and we were able to get to one of the best starting pitchers in the game," said David Wright, who went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and three runs scored.
Pagan got things started against Verlander with his triple over center fielder Austin Jackson's head to score Jose Reyes. Pagan also hit a two-run single off the rookie, Sborz, in the bottom of the Mets' eight-run third inning, and added an RBI double off Brad Thomas in the fourth. He tied career highs with four hits and three runs scored, and extended his hitting streak to 10 games.
"Angel's playing extremely well, getting big hit after big hit," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said.
It's Manuel's job to find consistent at-bats for Pagan once Beltran returns. Beltran will be back with the Mets no later than the team's July 15 game in San Francisco. Major League Baseball rules dictate that a position player has to return to the major league roster no later than 20 days after he begins a minor league rehab assignment.
Manuel said Beltran will play center field when he returns, ruling out the possibility that he could see time in the corner outfield positions. That leaves Pagan, who's hitting .304 with 41 runs scored and 35 RBIs, as the odd man out. Manuel said Pagan will shift to a backup role for all three outfield spots when Beltran returns.
"This will be a little different situation, because right now we feel that we have three guys that are good every-day players and are playing well," Manuel said. "So it will take some managing on our part."
Pagan insists he's just keeping center field warm for Beltran, but he's been one of the team's most consistent hitters through 70 games. It seems insane to take his bat out of the lineup, but the Mets will be forced to do so to make room for their $119 million center fielder.
"Whatever Jerry asks for me, I have to respect and adjust," Pagan said. "As for what's going to happen when [Beltran] gets back, I have no control over that. I just have to adjust to whatever comes. Right now, I feel good, I feel great. I feel at my best, and hopefully I can stay that way."
Ian Begley is a contributor to ESPNNewYork.com