SAN DIEGO Here are the numbers that Buster Posey ownssince the All-Star break:
A .439 average. Fifty hits in 114 at-bats. Ten doubles andnine homers, too. And 35 RBIs in 32 games.
If he were playing his own video game, hed have accumulatedenough sunflower seeds to buy a riding lawnmower. (If that reference sounds bizarre, you haven't downloaded "Buster Bash.")
Posey was 3 for 4 with a sacrifice fly and an RBI doubleSaturday night, continuing to smoke one pitch after another to right field asonly he can.
When he lasered another to right in the ninth inning, hehustled another double out of it. He didnt let up even as the Giants wereleading 7-5, and even though he already had caught five pitchers on a warmnight at Petco Park.
Its a good thing Posey kept playing all out. He was able toscore on Hunter Pences double, and that run proved invaluable when the Giantswere pushed to the limit before escaping with an 8-7 victory.
Lets also recall that Posey threw out Cameron Maybin tryingto steal second base in the second inning an inning in which the Padresloaded the bases with no outs against Barry Zito, yet only squeezed one run outof it. Poseys throw minimized that threat.
It was somewhere between that throw and that hustle doublein the ninth that I realized: Posey truly is, at this moment, the most valuableplayer in the National League. As amazing as Andrew McCutchen has been for thePirates, Posey has transformed himself into a dominant presence in the middleof the Giants lineup while also contributing at the most important defensivespot on the diamond.
You could make up a nice spreadsheet and compare Posey toMcCutchen in every statistical category. Im sure McCutchens WAR is justdandy.
But every MVP candidacy is built on a narrative, too. And what a story would it be if the Giants, led by Posey in the middle of theirlineup, persevered to win the NL West without Melky Cabrera. What would it tell youif the Giants suddenly lost the player who was leading the major leagues inhits and runs scored, then managed to stay in first place over the final 45games?
It would say that Poseys impact is undeniable. And hisvalue is inestimable.
Good lord. Posey has 50 hits since the All-Star break.
And yes, I know I already mentioned that once.
I didnt need to ask Bruce Bochy if Posey would becatching Sunday afternoons series finale in San Diego. If Bochy had planned torest Posey, he wouldve given him his break Saturday night and had Hector Sanchezwork with Barry Zito. When Posey was in the lineup to catch Zito, you knew hewould play the following day, too.
Sure enough, Bochy said Posey would be in there.
The Giants faced a left-hander Saturday and theyll getanother on Sunday. Cabrera, its been noted, had the third highestaverage against lefty pitchers of any major league hitter. He was hitting .395.
Posey ranked second. He entered the game at .423.
So as the Giants look to find a consistent lineup againstlefties, youd better believe Posey will be a part of it.
And, as he said after Saturdays game, Regardless, at thispoint in the year, its time to push it a little more. I want to be out thereas much as possible.
Pablo Sandoval will be back in Sundays lineup as well, eventhough he did more running than a refrigerator with a bad seal.
He tripled, slid with a thud when he scored on a sacrificefly, then had another inelegant slide when he scored from second base on asingle.
His strained hamstring survived intact.
I dont think twice. I just go, Sandoval said of his triple.
But he acknowledged that third base looked off in thedistance as he picked up coach Tim Flannery.
I see the base so far, he said, smiling. Its likeFlannery pulled the base out.
Sandoval said he was still 90 percent.
What about Sunday? Maybe 91
Still 90, he said, smiling and exhaling.
In minor league news, Heath Hembree is moving back to Triple-A Fresno after five hitless innings for Single-A San Jose. The Giants wanted Hembree to start out slow at San Jose after missing more than a month with a strained flexor mass in his forearm.
I don't think Hembree will be a candidate to close for the Giants this season. But if he's healthy and effective, and if the reports are good over the next several weeks, then absolutely the Giants will be open-minded to bringing him up in September.
One other minor league note: For the first time in his pro career, Gary Brown started a game someplace other than center field Saturday night. He started in left field and Juan Perez was in center for Double-A Richmond. I'm not sure what that means, but GM Brian Sabean said just the other day he didn't envision Brown playing in the big leagues this season. Anyway, the situation bears watching.
What has been the key for the Giants offense while scoring18 runs in two games at Petco Park?
They arent striking out. Before Angel Pagan got rung up inthe sixth, the Giants didnt have a strikeout in Saturdays game.
Thats a beautiful thing for Bochy, who was so frustratedearlier in the season when the Giants failed to make contact in RBI situations.They simply arent enough of a power team to justify all those strikeouts, hesaid.
Weve talked about it. Weve discussed it, Bochy said. Theyrefighting up there more. Theyre doing a better job of putting the ball in play,cutting down their swing. We had to cut down in that department. And the guys reallyhave made a concerted effort to do that.
As mentioned elsewhere in our coverage, Bochy had a quickhook with Barry Zito. He said having a 13-man staff allows him to do that.
The next item to note: Will Bochy have a similar hook withTim Lincecum the rest of the way?
Im guessing ... yes.