EXTRA BAGGS: Posey collects seed money, etc.


EXTRA BAGGS: Posey collects seed money, etc.


ST. LOUIS Buster Poseys free video game is available foryour iPhone, and heres a quick review:

"Buster Bash" is mildly addicting. The first level, set in Bustersboyhood backyard in Leesburg, Ga., is easy. After that, you need to useaccumulated sunflower seeds to equip yourself with better bats, gloves, etc.to compete at higher levels.

Or you need to be better at video games than I am,apparently

(Seeds can be compiled through playing the game, or bysigning up for a credit card, or by watching commercials, or, if its moreconvenient for you, the game developer is also kind enough to accept cold, hardcash. America! What a country.)

Aubrey Huff and Brandon Crawford were playing the game nonstop inthe clubhouse Tuesday, taking virtual batting practice before the real-worldkind. Judging from the displeased faces they made at their iPads, Im pretty sure they didbetter taking actual swings.

Posey took his share of grief from teammates and claimed that no, he hadno cheat codes to give anyone.

Against real major league pitching, of course, theres no such thing asa secret up-down-up-down-left-right-left-right sequence.

It only seems likePosey has access to the codes.

His three-run home run in the first inning powered theGiants to a much-needed 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday night.It was his fifth home run in six games. It also was his 18th of theseason, matching his career high.

He leads the major leagues with 30 RBIs since the All-Starbreak, and hes hitting .432 over an 11-game hitting streak. Those are video game numbers, all right.

The Pirates Andrew McCutchen probably would win the NL MVPaward if the ballots had to be cast right now. But Poseys name is bubbling up,much as it did in discussion leading up to the Rookie of the Year award in 2010.

Poseys least favorite topic is himself. Heremained consistent when asked his thoughts about the MVP chatter.

Well, thats humbling to have your name even mentioned insomething like that, he said. Its pretty cool, I guess.

Thats Buster for you. I wonder if wed get a longer comment for 1,000 sunflower seeds.

And I jest, of course.

Posey and Barry Zito had started as a battery just twicethis season entering Tuesday, and the Giants had lost both times. But they madea nice team against a tough Cardinals lineup loaded with right-handed problemsto solve.

Zito always seems to deliver an excellent start when you leastexpect it. He had a 11.35 ERA in three career outings at Busch Stadium and saidhe knew he had a couple rough ones here in St. Louis."

"But it doesnt reallystand out in my mind," he continued. "You just come back to the fundamentals: Being aggressive,throwing strikes. When you do that, you put pressure on them. Theyll swing atpitches out of the zone. Theyll just react differently.

It was the 15th time in 384 career starts that Zito went at least 6 23 innings and didn't walk a batter. That was impressive, since the same Cardinals lineup spoiled dozens of good pitches from Matt Cain a night earlier.

Of course, it helps when Posey gives you a 3-0 lead with one swingbefore you take the mound.

Well, Ive had him for awhile, Bochy said of Zito. Youcan see when hes on. He used all his pitches at any time. He gave up a couplehome runs to a good hitter (Allen Craig) and kept his poise.

Yes, Bochy and Zito have been together awhile. Theirfirst season as Giants came at the same time, in 2007. Who could forget that media guide cover ofthe two of them, hands awkwardly grabbing their belts, standing back to back?(The most awkward thing about that cover: Barry Bonds, who would break the all-time home runrecord that season, was nowhere to be found on it.)

Its at turns easy and difficult to remember that Zito hasbeen a Giant for six seasons now. Hes surpassed expectations while going 9-8with a 4.19 ERA. So he was asked if he is having his most fun in a Giantsuniform.

I always try to have fun playing the game, Zito said. Sometimesits more fun than others. But I love the chemistry in this clubhouse. I wantto stay healthy, get out there every five and help this team win.

Ill let you know at the end of the season how happy I am.

I believe the words playoff roster will dictate Zitosmood at the end of the season, should the Giants make it.

Its been mentioned in this space before and it bearsmentioning again: Hunter Pence is going to be extremely important for theGiants. Hell need to protect Posey in the lineup and ensure that hes notpitched around.

If its already happening, Posey hasnt taken note of it.

Are they? I dont know. They havent really yet, he said. Idont feel like it.

Even if they do, Posey said he would try not to let it alterhis game plan.

I try to keep the same approach -- just look for a ball youcan hit hard, he said.

If you missed this from my Twitter post earlier today,right-hander Heath Hembree came out of two live BP sessions without anyproblems and the Giants activated him on Tuesday. But they assigned him toSingle-A San Jose, not Triple-A Fresno.

Hembree tossed a scoreless inning at Stockton, striking outone.

Hell remain in San Jose just long enough to get hisbearings before the Giants move him back up the chain, club vice president BobbyEvans told me. Theres no such thing as a rehab assignment in the minorleagues.

Hembree had been shut down for a month because of a flexorstrain in his right elbow.

Xavier Nady, who homered Monday, was 0 for 1 with three walks, an RBI and a run scored for Triple-A Fresno Tuesday night.

Left-hander Jose Mijares arrived during the game and wasissued No.50. With my binoculars, I could spot him in the Giants bullpen.

Actually, I could see him plenty well without the specs. Hefills out a uniform.

The Cardinals have a pitcher named Barret Browning, which Ilove. How much? Let me count the ways.

Hed better keep throwing strikes. I heard the Cardinalshave a young arm named Al Tennyson charging through the minor leagues.

Time for me to spend three hours obsessively trying to hitthe ball over the goshdarn barn in Buster Bash. One reader informs me that in later rounds, you get a shot to hit announcer Dave Flemming's car.

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

SAN FRANCISCO — In the bottom of the eighth inning Monday, with the Giants finally running away with one, Johnny Cueto started blowing into a giant wad of bubble gum. He held two hands out, ready to catch remnants of an explosion as Brandon Crawford and Kelby Tomlinson looked on and smiled. 

A few minutes later, players started migrating to the dugout rail as they have done in each of the three starts Ryder Jones has made. They are ready to cheer on a rookie’s first big league hit, even if the wait has been an excruciating one for the third baseman. 

Bruce Bochy likes to say that your personality is better when you’re winning, and his players certainly showed that Monday in snapshots here and there. They woke up to a report that there were fractured in the clubhouse, caused in large part by the new closer. They denied it, they met as a group, and then, finally, they won. 

Jeff Samardzija pitched as he has for two months, the top of the lineup came through over and over again, and Brandon Crawford paced a golden night with the gloves. A 9-2 win over the Rockies was just the second since June 11 and it snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Rockies. Any win is meaningful at this point, but this one seemed to mean just a little bit more given the drama of the day. 

“Despite what people might think, we still have a pretty good group here and we get along just fine,” Crawford said. “We’re all rooting for each other.”

It’s one thing to support teammates off the field, and there’s been no indication that the Giants aren’t doing that. It’s quite another to be hand-in-hand between the lines, and for much of this season, Samardzija has been on an island. 

The right-hander has been Bochy’s best pitcher since Madison Bumgarner went down in the hills outside Denver. But he entered Monday with a 2-9 record and 4.74 ERA inflated by faulty defense. He hasn’t grumbled, but he has grown accustomed to the worst, and when Nolan Arenado bounced a ball deep to the hole in shortstop with two on and two outs in the third, Samardzija figured the game was probably tied. 

“I’m thinking maybe they charge it in the outfield and maybe make a play at home,” Samardzija said. “But with a guy like that at shortstop, things change so fast.”

Crawford scooped the ball on the edge of the grass. He would have liked nothing more than to make an otherworldly throw to first to nail his World Baseball Classic teammate, but he knew the best chance was at third. A couple of days ago, Crawford and Jones discussed how the rookie should cover third on such a play. Jones played it perfectly, retreating in time to catch Crawford’s inning-ending throw. 

“The best thing (about Crawford) is he doesn’t even talk about it,” Samardzija said.

No, Crawford put the spotlight on Jones.

“That’s a pretty heads-up play,” he said. “We talked about it and he was there. It was a funny coincidence.”

The play held the lead, and the Giants kept pushing. The top four hitters in the lineup finished with 10 hits, six RBI and six runs. Brandon Belt had an RBI triple in the five-spot. Crawford drove in a run behind him. Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson added insurance from the bottom. Bochy watched it all from the top step and saw a group collectively relax.

“Just quit fighting it so much,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent in this offense. There’s no reason they can’t put consistent runs on the board. Tonight I just thought the at-bats were so much better and the focus was. Once it started rolling, guys felt better about themselves, and it just got contagious.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies


Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies


SAN FRANCISCO — On a day that started with controversy, Giants players called a meeting following batting practice. Perhaps they were talking about when and where to stretch. Perhaps a reminder was given to keep clubhouse complaints in the actual clubhouse. 

Or, perhaps, the players just decided that enough was enough. 

In a rare display, the Giants put a clean and complete game together. They beat the Rockies 9-2 at AT&T Park, getting just their second win since June 11 and snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Rockies. 

Jeff Samardzija continued his hot streak, the lineup was opportunistic and flashed some power, and the defense sparkled at times. Here are five things to know from the throwback night … 

—- Samardzija walked off to a standing ovation after throwing 112 pitches. He was charged with two earned in 6 1/3 innings. Ignore the record and ERA for a second — his FIP is 3.37 and his xFIP is 2.95. He really is having a very good and underrated season. 

—- Here’s another one for your Samardzija file: Over the past two months, he has 82 strikeouts and three walks. 

—- It was a good day in the race for another Brandon Crawford Gold Glove. Adeiny Hechavarria, one of the few in the National League who even approaches Crawford, was traded to the Rays. Crawford added to the reel by gunning a runner down on third and making a nifty spin-and-throw in the fourth to rob Ian Desmond of a hit. 

—- There are nights where Denard Span looks like a game-changer, and this was one of them. He had a single, walk and triple in his first three plate appearances, scoring twice as the Giants built a 5-0 lead. He was spry in center, too 

—- Nolan Arenado was 0 for 4. Apparently that’s legal now. (It was actually his ninth 0 for 4 or worse against the Giants, in 81 games.)

—- Bonus sixth fact since the Giants won a game: Sam Dyson, acquired basically for free, is the new setup man. That didn’t take long, and it probably won’t be changing anytime soon. Dyson gave up a single but struck out the other three batters he faced.