Posey: 'I was able to get a good pitch and drive it'
SAN FRANCISCO – Buster Posey might be straight laced and squeaky clean, but you’ve got to watch out for him in handshake lines.
While everyone else is tapping gloves, he’ll sneak in a shot to the ribs – or somewhere south of there. A turkey tap, as Brandon Belt calls it.
So when Posey transported Ronald Belisario’s sixth pitch of the ninth inning into the left field seats Friday night, then began rounding the bases following his first walk-off hit of any kind since he wore a San Jose Giants jersey, he knew what would await him at home plate.
“Yes,” said Posey, simply enough, when asked if his teammates landed some punches after the Giants’ 2-1 victory over the archrival Los Angeles Dodgers. “I got a few.”
“Uh huh,” he said.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants 2, Dodgers 1]
Jeremy Affeldt has been known to needle Posey in postgame celebrations. But he wasn’t the culprit.
“He punches back,” said Affeldt, “so you’ve got to be careful.”
You’ve got to be careful with Posey. That goes double if you’re an opposing pitcher – and maybe triple when the game can be decided with one swing. Posey timed Belisario while seeing six mid-90s mph sinkers – ball, foul, ball, foul, ball, and then …
He delivered the Giants’ 10th comeback win out of their 17 victories.
And he hit the Giants’ seventh home run this season that either tied the game or gave them the lead after the eighth inning. This was the first walk-off shot among them – and the first by a Giant since Nate Schierholtz went deep to end the game July 6, 2011.
“Just a great at-bat off a tough pitcher,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who was hoping Posey could get on base so Gregor Blanco could pinch run for him.
Instead, the Giants received something they hadn’t received in almost seven years: a walk-off home run by the leadoff hitter in the ninth inning. (Moises Alou was the last to do it, in 2006.)
“He’s got a ton of movement and he’s had a lot of success against me,” said Posey, who was 0 for 6 with five strikeouts and a walk against Belisario. “I was just looking for something up, stay short and get the barrel to it.”
The Giants pulled off a rare feat: They had just four hits in the game but managed to hit for the cycle as a team. Marco Scutaro tripled, Posey doubled and Hunter Pence singled in the sixth, when they scored their only run off Clayton Kershaw.
Posey’s shot bounced off the track in right-center and would’ve been out of almost any other ballpark. It was enough to draw even against Kershaw, a pitcher who has been so good against the Giants that his ERA in seven starts at AT&T Park actually went up, to 0.73, even though he allowed just one run in seven innings.
Posey had a bruising game even before he absorbed his celebratory jabs. He took a foul tip to his inner thigh and he slid right foot first into Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis while getting thrown out at the plate.
But when it came time to win it with one swing, against a pitcher who had dominated him in the past, the reigning NL MVP met the moment. As much as he's accomplished in his career, he hadn't collected a walk-off hit since his homer won a game for Single-A San Jose in the 13th inning back in 2009.
“I think you try and treat each at-bat the same, at least as much as possible,” he told me. “That’s the goal. Have a good plan each at-bat, so when you’re in those situations, it’s more of a normal feeling.”
Until you’re turkey tapped, at least.