Kruk & Kuip: 'Crawford made a mistake, but not gonna pin loss on him'
MILWAUKEE – You win batting titles by feasting on mediocre pitchers and hanging in there against the aces.
You win batting titles by grinding out at-bats and extending rallies. You win batting titles by getting a few to fall.
You win batting titles by collecting hits with two strikes.
Buster Posey did all of those things last season, when he became the first NL catcher in the post-War era to lead his league in hitting. The Giants are only 15 games into the season, but Posey isn’t getting the same results thus far.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he felt fortunate to be 9-6 after the Brewers took a 4-3, walk-off victory Wednesday night at Miller Park. Bochy acknowledged that his team isn’t clicking in all phases.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Brewers 4, Giants 3]
And their biggest cylinder remains all locked up.
Whether it’s his swing or his luck, or a mélange of the two, the results haven’t been there for Posey thus far.
“The past couple days, I’ve felt as good as I’ve felt at the plate,” said Posey, who struck out with the bases loaded in the sixth.
Hunter Pence followed that deflating strikeout by dribbling a tying, two-run single up the middle. But the rally could’ve been bigger if the Giants’ cleanup hitter had joined in the fun. Posey has driven in a run in just three of his 13 starts this season.
“That’s obviously the frustrating one for me, with the bases loaded,” said Posey, who will get a day off with Thursday’s 12:05 p.m. first pitch. “Hunter picked me up, so it’s easier to swallow. I just have to keep grinding and keep working.”
Almost no one grinded out at-bats better than Posey last season. He hit an astounding .261 with two strikes – the fourth highest average in the majors. (The league average was .178.)
But Posey has been nearer to average with two strikes this year. He has a .182 average (4 for 24).
It’s a small sample size – not even a tenth of the season. But it’s on Posey’s mind. He said he was not happy with himself for swinging through Kyle Lohse’s inside sinker with two strikes.
“A pitcher’s pitch,” Posey said. “When I’m feeling good, I normally put that ball in play. I’ve just got to take whatever I can that’s positive, and I do feel pretty good at the plate. The first two at-bats, I was happy with those.”
They resulted in a hard ground ball up the middle that deflected off Lohse and straight to shortstop Jean Segura on a 1-6-3 out. Then Posey laced one deep into the right field corner, where Norichika Aoki almost seemed to materialize from a transporter pad to make the catch.
“He plays … pretty deep,” Posey said.
Nobody who knows Posey even casually would suggest that the pressure of his nine-year, $167 million contract is getting to him. It’s not like Posey deserved goat horns for this loss, either. The Giants ran into a good pitcher who kept them hitless until the sixth inning, yet still managed to string together enough to nest a three-run comeback.
An error in the ninth contributed to the Brewers’ winning run, but the Giants couldn’t even lament that mistake. Shortstop Brandon Crawford made a terrific stop of Carlos Gomez’s single deep in the hole and then his hustled throw was off line to third base. That advanced runners to second and third and set the stage for pinch hitter Blake Lalli’s fly ball that won the game.
Bochy didn’t fault Crawford, saying it would’ve been very tough for a premier defender like him to eat Gomez’s ball and realize he didn’t have a shot.
Crawford did his manager one better. He said he was convinced he did have a shot, and a look at video confirmed it.
“I honestly would’ve had him,” Crawford said.
From an adjacent locker stall, Madison Bumgarner interrupted:
“If I’m pitching, I want him to (try to) make the play,” said the pitcher, “because I know he can.”
With two outs instead of one, the Giants’ outfield is at usual depth and Lalli’s game-winning hit becomes a can of golden niblets.
You couldn’t even nitpick Bochy for staying with Santiago Casilla through the ninth, even though he was a bit lucky to get out of the eighth after Rickie Weeks lined out to strand two runners. The way the Giants’ left-handed relievers have been throwing of late, Casilla likely was the Giants’ best option.
The Giants didn’t let the game get away. It’s more that nobody on their side reached up to seize it. That’s usually where NL MVPs and batting champions extend their reach. So far, Posey is coming up short.
No postgame notes with such an early start Thursday, but this file would be remiss without pointing out Brandon Belt’s struggles in an 0-for-3, two-strikeout game.
Belt’s pattern last year was a Coney Island coaster – huge ups and downs over the span of weeks or months. This year, he’s moving back and forth faster than a seismograph in a temblor.
He followed his first three-hit game of the season with a lunge fest against Lohse and reliever Jim Henderson.
“You’re right,” Bochy said, asked about Belt’s back-and-forth games. “It’s all about consistency and he’s not there. One game it does look like he’s got it, and tonight it just looked like he was getting himself out at times.”
Including a lazy fly ball that followed Pence’s hit in the sixth, stranding two runners and killing the Giant’s only scoring rally of the night.