SAN DIEGO – Bruce Bochy went sleuthing Sunday morning. The Giants’ manager printed out a series of screen grabs of Buster Posey at the plate, hoping to detect a reason his former MVP was grinding through a 1-for-24 slump.
He found nothing, and that’s the trouble whenever Posey goes cold. It’s easier to diagnose a hypochondriac.
“Nothing has changed,” said Bochy, looking at snapshots of Posey’s load, hand position and weight shift over the years. “It’s amazing. Since 2010, he’s almost identical. Usually guys will change or tweak something.”
Did Bochy share any of this with his All-Star catcher?
“No,” he said. “I didn’t want to clog his head.”
Instead, Bochy shut the door to the batting cage and hoped a less-is-more approach would bring air to a suffocated lineup. Posey brought the billows, hitting a two-run home run in the first inning as the Giants avoided getting swept while holding on for a 4-3 victory against the San Diego Padres.
With the anxiety level climbing in recent days, Posey was the Giants’ Easter Sunday redeemer in every respect. He enlivened the dugout with his shot off Padres lefty Robbie Erlin. He threw out a proficient thief, Everth Cabrera, trying to steal in the fifth inning. He teamed with Tim Lincecum and four relievers to pull out another tight victory, which is the only kind the Giants get these days. Their last 10 games have been decided by 11 runs.
And Posey, with a hat tip to technology, saved a run by deftly applying a swipe tag to Xavier Nady as he tried to score from first base on Chase Headley’s bases-loaded double in the third inning. Nady was called safe by plate umpire Mike DiMuro but Bochy challenged the call and it was overturned.
“He covered all facets of the game,” said Lincecum, who gave up three runs in six-plus innings to receive his first victory of the season. “That’s what you look for from him, and he did it again today.”
There was a time not long ago when scouts would scoff at the way Posey set up in front of the plate to receive throws, then reach behind him with a swipe tag. Now that’s the way catchers have to play it. Already this season, a couple runs have been awarded when it was determined the catcher set up in the baseline without possession of the ball.
This is an adjustment for many catchers. It’s not a change for Posey, who has been under orders to receive throws that way even before Scott Cousins took him out in a season-ending collision two years ago.
The relay throw from first baseman Brandon Belt and Posey’s tag did more than save a run that ended up accounting for the Giants’ margin of victory. It also got Lincecum out of a troublesome third, and undoubtedly helped as he was able to strike out five of the next 10 batters while facing the minimum over the next three innings.
“That inning could still be going on right now,” Lincecum said. “You never know.”
Well, this isn’t cricket, so … no. Besides, Lincecum helped himself by keeping the ball down, burying his curveball with two strikes and elevating when it suited him. He was able to put away hitters – something he struggled to do last season.
The Giants led 4-0 after Posey’s homer and Angel Pagan’s two-run single in the second inning – the club’s only hit with runners in scoring position in three games here. (Pagan is 8 for 20 with RISP this season.)
They continued to hit the ball hard most of the game, but had nothing more to show for it.
“I thought we were kicking tail today. I did,” Bochy said. “Then I look up in the seventh and we had three hits. I couldn’t believe that’s all we had.”
Posey has crushed lefties throughout his career and the Giants are halfway through a stretch of facing four of them in four days. So they needed to get his bat going.
Now they’re off to Coors Field – where Posey is a career .402 hitter, with a 1.107 OPS.
Bochy hopes that won’t change, either.