EXTRA BAGGS: Posey feels right at home in the clutch, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: Posey feels right at home in the clutch, etc.

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA The visiting dugout was jammed as full as a commuter train.

The Giants had posted a stretch time of 5:05 p.m. A good olSouthern thunderstorm had pushed back the schedule to 5:20,but word didnt get around in time. All the players sat down or milled aboutthe dugout, watching the intermittent, fat drops fall a few inches from theirfaces.

All but Buster Posey. He was a few crow-hops away, signingautographs.

You could understand why. Posey grew up three hours and aworld away in Leesburg, Ga., and Braves were the team he grew up watching.Turner Field was his template for a Major League stadium. When he stepped ontothe grass here, it was all too easy to slough off his workaday mindset and bethat giddy kid again.

But then the game started Tuesday night and Posey turned an0-2 count into a 2-2 count and turned a slider into an RBI double that got theGiants on the board. (And it was only a double because Posey tore out of thebatters box, sprinting as hard as Ive seen him sprint all season to stretch asingle.)

In his next at-bat, he had another two-out, two-strike countwith a runner in scoring position. Braves starter Jair Jurrjens tried a changeup this time.Posey hit a hard single through the left side, scoring another run.

Then in the fourth, he had another two-strike count with thebases loaded. He cleared them all with a double.

He finished with five RBIs, one short of matching his careerhigh. David OBrien, the terrific Braves beat reporter for the AtlantaJournal-Constitution, tweeted that Posey opened up a can on the Braves. (He left out the "whoopass," but I think it was understood.)

A game like this is precisely what the Giants missed mostwhen they didnt have Posey in the second half last season. Remember, that teamhit .173 in 613 at-bats with two outs and runners in scoring position the lowestby a major league team in four decades for which data is available. That total lackof clutch hitting, and Poseys injury, were the two main reasons the Giantswent from World Series champions to shut out of the postseason.

This year, they are not much better in the clutch. At theAll-Star break, they were hitting.184 with RISPand two outs. Only the San Diego Padres had been more un-clutchy.

These things can get contagious.When everyone is aware of the team-wide failings, each hitter is prone to trytoo hard, do too much, take themselves out of their approach to change it.

If theres a most polished, mostbrilliant facet to Poseys game, its his ability to stay within his approach.If he's able to come through, able to provide that up-close example, maybe it's easier for his teammates to relax and stay within themselves, too.

Posey let that facet gleam Tuesday night, in a place where he might have become unnerved orskittish just a few years earlier. But not anymore.

Maybe Posey might sign a few more autographs at TurnerField. Maybe he might allow himself to feel that tingle of excitement as hebuttons up a big league uniform. But when the game starts, hes back tobusiness-like Buster.

He acknowledged that wasnt the case the last and only timehed played a regular-season series here, when he went 1 for 11 over threegames in 2010.

I think it was a little more relaxed probably, for sure,Posey said, but not after offering tongue-in-cheek thanks to a reporter forbringing up that rough series in 2010. Its kind of knowing what to expect,because I dont get the opportunity to play in front of people I grew up withthat much. This time, yeah, I was definitely more relaxed.

His parents were here, and his grandparents. He didnt havea huge number of tickets. But he kept seeing familiar faces in the crowd orrunning into voices from the past as they called from the stands.

A lot of people I didnt necessarily know were coming, hesaid, smiling like someone who just walked into a well-staged surprise party.

Posey is likely to catch every inning the rest of the serieshere, because of Hector Sanchezs sprained left knee. Will he be prepared forthat?

Oh yeah, he said.

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What is Poseys plan with two strikes, exactly?

Well, he doesnt panic, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.He uses the whole field. Some guys have that gift to put the ball in play.Its what he does so well.

Said Posey: I just try to battle, see the ball a long time and give myself achance.

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On the day that the Kansas City Royals designated JonathanSanchez for assignment, the Giants scored their first 9-0 victory in Atlantasince Sept. 29, 1976 when John Montefusco threw his no-hitter at FultonCounty Stadium.

Sanchez, as you know, in 2009 became the first Giant tothrow a no-hitter since Montefusco.

Sanchez is making almost 6 million this season, so Id be shockedif any team claimed him off waivers in the next 10 days. If he gets outrighted,would he make an intriguing reclamation project for Dave Righetti and theGiants coaching staff? Maybe. But I have a feeling that the front officedoesnt harbor many warm feelings for Sanchez after so many maddening outingsover the years.

And yes, the Melky Cabrera trade was the heist of the offseason.

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Aubrey Huff was 0-for-4 with four groundouts to the right side as the DH for Triple-A Fresno at Las Vegas on Tuesday.

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Because many have asked (and if they didnt, Id remind youanyway), my Jeopardy! episode will air on Friday. To see a very quick andawkward video clip, visit the official site here.

Three more Giants likely to join Posey in World Baseball Classic

Three more Giants likely to join Posey in World Baseball Classic

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Four years ago, Giants coaches made no secret of the fact that they felt some veterans were affected by playing in the World Baseball Classic. The Giants were coming off a long postseason run, but eight of their big leaguers chose to participate in the 2013 event. 

Four years later, the list is down to just four, and the Giants won’t stand in their way. Buster Posey has already been announced as a catcher for Team USA and Brandon Crawford is expected to play as well. Johnny Cueto has told the Giants that he intends on pitching for the Dominican Republic and Albert Suarez plans to pitch for his native Venezuela. 

In past years, clubs have primarily been concerned about pitchers. In an odd way, hitters are almost better off playing in the WBC instead of facing amped up prospects in Cactus League games. The Giants learned that lesson the hard way in 2015 when Hunter Pence was drilled by a prospect with a lack of command, causing him to miss the start of the season. For pitchers, the run-up to Opening Day is a tedious one, but Giants officials said they’re not concerned about their co-ace, Cueto, participating. 

“Major League Baseball is doing everything it can to help us protect them in terms of the quantity of players on the roster and pitch counts and innings,” general manager Bobby Evans said. “We feel MLB is working carefully to help all of us manage guys while they’re away from camp. We feel as confident as ever that they’ll be protected. Lessons have been learned, and everyone involved will try to find ways to avoid issues.”

If Crawford commits to playing, he could find himself in a fun spot. Nolan Arenado has already said he will play for the United States and the two National League West stars could form one hell of a defensive duo on the left side of the infield. Posey will start for a team that already has Max Scherzer and Chris Archer as part of the starting staff. Evans said the teams will carry three catchers, and Posey isn’t expected to be overworked. His manager said he’s not worried about the decision. Posey will simply have to start his preparation process a bit sooner.

“I’m fine with it,” Bruce Bochy said of Posey playing. “Buster wants to do it and I’m good with it.”

This will be the fourth edition of the WBC. In 2013, the Giants were represented by Ryan Vogelsong, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, Angel Pagan, Santiago Casilla, Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval and Jose Mijares. 

Bochy: Game 4 loss to Cubs toughest I've ever had to bounce back from

Bochy: Game 4 loss to Cubs toughest I've ever had to bounce back from

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Bruce Bochy had grown accustomed to being in the October spotlight during even years, so he had a hard time getting on board as a spectator during one of the most exciting postseasons in recent memory. 

Bochy’s Giants blew a three-run lead in their final game of the season, a loss so devastating that several players headed home the next day without even packing up their lockers. Two months later, Bochy is all smiles. He likes his team, and on Monday he got the closer he needed back in Game 4 of the NLDS. 

Bochy sat down with CSN Bay Area on Tuesday for a one-on-one interview about Mark Melancon, left field, that postseason loss, his new coaches and much more. It will air tonight on SportsTalk Live at 5 p.m. and we’ll run the whole thing back as a podcast. But for now, here are Bochy’s thoughts on the loss that ended his even-year run: 

“I had a hard time, I’m not going to lie. In all my years, that’s the toughest game I’ve ever had to bounce back off of,” he said. “It took a while. It was hard to watch that first postseason game but gradually it got a little better. Just the way we went out, that’s a tough way to go. Our bullpen has been such a big reason for our success so to go out that way, it really wasn’t just that game — it was the second half — we just had a hard time trying to get it figured out. 

“You know, you’ve got to put it behind you, but I’m not going to lie, that was a pretty big blow to the chin. It took a while to get over it.” 

The Giants led the Cubs 5-2 when Bochy made the decision to pull Matt Moore after eight brilliant innings and 120 pitches. That night, Moore and Bochy and everyone else involved said that there was a consensus that Moore had reached the end of the line. Two months later, Bochy doesn’t regret the move. Moore’s 120 pitches went down as the postseason high. 

“I think you can always look back, but these cards have backs on them,” Bochy said. “I felt good about protecting Moore. If he goes back out there he’s probably looking at 135 or maybe more pitches or you’ve got to bring a reliever in with men on base. I felt with the three-run lead that the guys I had could get three outs.” 

Derek Law was the first man out of the bullpen and he gave up a single that was inches from Brandon Crawford’s glove. Javier Lopez walked Anthony Rizzo. Sergio Romo entered and gave up a double to Ben Zobrist. Will Smith gave up a single to pinch-hitter Willson Contreras. After an error, Hunter Strickland gave up a single to Javier Baez. The Cubs won 6-5 and went on to win the World Series. 

“We knew we could get the matchups that we wanted,” Bochy said on Tuesday. “It started out with Law and he got the ground ball right in the shift. The walk hurt. We got behind Rizzo and ended up walking him and Romo ended up getting behind Zobrist and that hurt, the double. And then we had Smitty. I was comfortable and sure they put in the right-handed bat, but the tying run was on second and I didn’t want a left-handed bat up there to pull the ball. He hits a ball that Smitty doesn’t quite get to, a seeing-eye base hit, and unlike us, we made a costly error. There was another, I felt, like a cheap hit there.

“But these are moments you relive. The good ones, but the bad ones stay with you too sometimes.”