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.
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.
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.
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.
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.