Posey honored with Hank Aaron Award

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Posey honored with Hank Aaron Award

Programming note: Tune in to SportsNet Central's OctoberQuest at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. We'll take you all the way up to first pitch at 5:07 p.m. with all the pregame news, stats, updates and analysis. It's Game 3 of the World Series!

DETROIT Last year, Buster Posey was on the shelf. This year, his shelf is getting awfully crowded.

It will be 20 more days until the NL Most Valuable Player Award is announced, for which Posey is considered a heavy favorite. But the Giants cleanup-hitting catcher took home one heck of a satisfying appetizer on Saturday, when he was named the recipient of the Hank Aaron Award in recognition of being the most outstanding offensive performer in the National League.

Detroits Miguel Cabrera, who became the first player to win the triple crown since 1967, received the AL award.

Posey received the award just 17 months after a home-plate collision ripped three ankle ligaments, fractured a bone in his leg and ended his season.

What an honor for Buster, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. This guy has amazed me with everything weve thrown at him. To come back and get this award tells you how talented and what a special player he is.

And hes so humble. He doesnt like to talk about himself. Hes one of the best players in the game. And being from Georgia, Im sure its going to mean a lot to have his name mentioned with Hank Aaron.

Posey won the NL batting title with a major league-best .336 average while also becoming the first Giant to drive in 100 runs since Barry Bonds in 2004. His 24 home runs was just tied for 22nd among NL hitters, but his .408 on-base percentage ranked second behind the Reds Joey Votto and his .957 OPS was second to the Brewers Ryan Braun.

Its possible that Brauns positive drug test from last season might have impacted the final vote, which is comprised of a special panel of Hall of Famers personally selected by Aaron. Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Joe Morgan and Robin Yount were voting members of the panel this year.

Giants special assistant Felipe Alou, who played with Aaron, was elated to learn that Posey became the clubs first recipient of the award since Barry Bonds. Bonds won in 2001, 02 and 04.

Alou reminded that Aaron finished with a .305 career average.

What is an outstanding hitter? Is it a lot of home runs and RBIs? Or is it a batting champion? Alou said. A lot of people remember Hank Aaron for hitting all those home runs, but I know because I played with him what a great hitter he was. He hit doubles. He went to the opposite field. That is Posey right there, too.

I believe he most deserves this award because he is that kind of hitter. I dont know if hell hit 800 home runs, but the kind of year he had after that injury is amazing to me. Im proud of him.

I have told many people that we didnt win last year because Posey got hurt. We missed that Hank Aaron-type of hitter. Its good to have him back.

Giants Notes: Span feeling better, hopes to return to lineup Wednesday

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Giants Notes: Span feeling better, hopes to return to lineup Wednesday

CHICAGO -- Joe Panik's leadoff homer in the series opener was a jolt, but the Giants are a much more dangerous offense when Denard Span is clicking atop the lineup, a spot ahead of Panik, and they hope to have that duo going Wednesday. Span got treatment all day Tuesday and said he could return to the lineup against Kyle Hendricks. 

"The swelling has gone down," Span said of his sprained left thumb. "The thing to do is to come in tomorrow, test it out, and if it feels good, you strap it on."

Span said an X-ray came back clean, but he didn't grab a bat Tuesday to test the thumb, focusing instead on treatment. He is batting .326 in nine games since coming off the DL. His replacement in center this week, Gorkys Hernandez, was 0-for-3 against Jon Lester, lowering his average to .160. 

--- The main story from the second game of this series: Johnny Cueto is now dealing with a second blister, and you can see the lack of movement on his pitches. The Cubs took advantage. Lester didn't need much help while throwing a 99-pitch complete game in two hours and five minutes. 

"He threw a lot more changeups than we've seen in the past," Buster Posey said. "He's shown it in the past but tonight he had good command of it. It wasn't just a show-me pitch. He used it a lot and threw it to lefties as well.

Posey twice grounded short rollers in front of the plate.

--- Posey's throw to nab Javy Baez on Monday was one of the best of the year, and on Tuesday afternoon, Bruce Bochy said, "If he's given a chance, I don't think there's anyone better in the game." That might be true, but Willson Contreras is threatening to get into the conversation. He threw an 85 mph rocket to second in the fifth to nab Eduardo Nuñez. If you're wondering how Lester -- who flat-out has the yips about throwing to first base and doesn't do it -- has allowed just six stolen bases this season, look no further than his young catcher. Long-term, Contreras is the guy I would expect to compete with Posey for Gold Gloves. 

"Nuney, with his speed, can go," Bochy said. "Their catcher made a great throw. Put it right on the money."

--- From before Tuesday's game, what do the relievers think of the new hidden bullpen at Wrigley? And if you missed the Power Rankings the other day, the records are outdated, but there are updates in here on old friends Matt Duffy, Chris Heston, Tommy Joseph, Adalberto Mejia, Yusmeiro Petit and others. Petit in particular is incredible ... just keeps doing his thing. 

--- This play was made by the shortstop. That's good for the old UZR.

Now dealing with a second blister, Cueto gives up three homers to Cubs

Now dealing with a second blister, Cueto gives up three homers to Cubs

CHICAGO — Even after losses, Johnny Cueto tends to find a way to flash a smile or two in post-game interviews. He is as competitive as it gets between the lines, but off the field he embraces a relaxed attitude. 

There was none of that Tuesday night at Wrigley. Cueto wore a dour look while describing a 4-1 loss to the Cubs, perhaps because he is a man searching for answers. Cueto was already pitching with a blister for the first time in his career. On Tuesday, he admitted he’s now trying to make the ball dance while dealing with a second blister. 

The first, on his middle finger, popped up at the end of the spring and has bothered Cueto off and on. The second, on his index finger, formed in St. Louis last week. 

“It’s not an excuse,” Cueto said several times. “I was getting hit.”

The Cubs crushed three homers, including a 470-foot bomb from Kyle Schwarber. All three pitches leaked right over the heart of the plate, and Cueto admitted that he can't get that final twist on the ball as he normally does. A tad of his movement is missing, and hitters are taking advantage. 

“It’s just those pitches I left hanging,” Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “When you leave pitches hanging or put them right in the middle of the plate, you’re going to pay the price.”

The homers — by Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo — represented 60 percent of the hits Cueto gave up. He struck out eight in six innings.

“It’s a little unlike Johnny to make mistakes like that,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “You like to think you could make a mistake and get away with it, but he didn’t tonight. A couple of fastballs he pulled over the heart of the plate and then one cutter.”

Catcher Buster Posey said the Cubs were on Cueto’s heater, so the duo tried to adjust. You can’t pitch without your fastball, though, and Cueto’s isn’t quite as explosive as it was in his first year with the Giants. The velocity is down a couple of ticks, but it’s unclear if that too is related to the blisters. 

What is clear is that Cueto is a different pitcher in his second season in San Francisco. He has a 4.64 ERA and opposing hitters are batting .253 with 11 homers. Through 10 starts last year, Cueto had a 2.83 ERA and was holding hitters to a .229 average. He had allowed just two homers. 

“Gosh, it’s just probably a few more mistakes than he made last year,” Bochy said. “He’s still competing so well and he gives you a chance to win every game.”

Cueto made it through six despite the long-ball issues, but that wasn’t enough against Jon Lester, who would have faced Cueto in Game 5 last October. Lester needed just 99 pitches to carve up the Giants for a complete game. He threw 70 strikes. 

That’s the type of efficient performance the Giants came to expect from Cueto last year. Cueto still expects it from himself, but his fingers aren’t cooperating. Asked if he would take a short stint on the DL to get right, Cueto said he can’t. He needs to keep pitching and have callouses form. Plus, any break without throwing would be a significant blow to a team trying desperately to stay within shouting distance of a playoff spot. 

“Basically, it makes no sense whatsoever,” to take a break, Cueto said.