Protection for Posey key to Giants' chances


Protection for Posey key to Giants' chances


Well, weve finally gotten the answer to the question that has nagged for nearly two weeks: Your Game Four and Five starters for the San Francisco Giants are . . .Not as important as we thought.Oh, sure, Tim Lincecum is important, and getting the ball for the Giants in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series creates with it a few tweaks to a lineup that needs all the tweaks its skin can endure. And Barry Zito is certainly an interesting notion for Game 5, insofar as it means that Madison Bumgarner is out, at least for the moment.In other words, Hector Sanchez catches, which means Buster Posey goes to first base, which means Brandon Belt sits and, more likely than not, Hunter Pence moves down a spot in the lineup to break out of what has become the teams most noticeable slump.But as Bruce Bochy picked at his food in the Managers office after Wednesdays rain-engorged 3-1 win by the St. Louis Cardinals, he knew what the real problem is. And though he couldnt say it aloud, he could think it.He doesnt have enough difference-making players.Melky Cabrera is being missed, not so much in left field but certainly in the three-hole in the batting order. And Pablo Sandoval isnt hurting the team all that much in the three-hole, but he is a better five-hole hitter. And Pence, who is a better sixth-place hitter, is stuck in the five-spot unless Bochy decides that semi-desperate times call for semi-desperate measures.This all matters because the Cardinals, unlike the Cincinnati Reds before them, have decided that Buster Posey is not to see a hittable pitch in this series. Period. And there is no second Posey in the order to make the Cardinals think otherwise.This is a long-standing Cardinal philosophy the other guys best player is not to be the instrument of your death. It was a staple of Tony La Russas managing and Dave Duncans pitching philosophies, and it remains so with Mike Matheny and Derek Lilliquist.They dont walk him outright, although he had two Wednesday night. But they give him so little to work with because (a) they have no fear of Pence, Belt or Gregor Blanco behind Posey, (b) the bases are not crowded when Posey bats, and (c) hes seen eight different pitchers in three games, none more than twice in situations where he was actually allowed to hit.In short, St. Louis is ahead in this series, two games to one, in significant part because they dont believe the Giants have enough hitting to force them to pitch to Posey.In Game 1, he batted once with a runner in scoring position and Joe Kelly walked him. In Game 2, he batted once with a runner scoring position again, in the bottom of the eighth with the Giants already ahead, 6-4, and was struck out by Marc Rzepcynski in a what-the-hell situation. And in Game 3, his one chance with a runner in scoring position ended in another walk, from Kyle Lohse.You may not remember it because, well, it was before the rain delay.The point is, in sum, that while we have exercised our mighty brains wondering about the level of Marco Scutaros health, the relative darkness of Matt Hollidays soul, the identities of the Giants fourth and fifth starters and the whereabouts of Pence, the Cardinals have been making the Giants beat them without their best hitter in play.And except for the fourth inning of Game 1, the fourth and eighth innings of Game 2 and the third inning Wednesday, they havent.So, while it is invigorating in some sense to know that Lincecum and Zito are pitching games Four and Five and Madison Bumgarner is being reduced to a role as the new Lincecum, the real issue is offense, and more specifically which player or combination of players is going to force the Cardinals to break programming and face Posey in a difficult situation.In other words, Lincecum can do a lot of things, but he cant win a game with Matt Cains run support levels, and neither can Zito for that matter. Pitching will not save the Giants if they cant solve the more fundamental problem. Losing 2-1, 6-1, or 11-1 is the same thing when youre the guy packing the 1.And while it seems like every day presents a different reason why Bochy picks at his postgame meal and curses the events of the day, so much of it has to do with one thing.The Cardinals have not been forced to face Buster Posey straight up. Until they are, all the other nuances of the series will be rendered moot.

Unhappy Buster Posey bashes Phillies closer after hit-by-pitch

Unhappy Buster Posey bashes Phillies closer after hit-by-pitch

In what was set up to be a pivotal matchup of the game turned into a heated exchange.

Buster Posey stepped into the batter's box in the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday against Phillies closer Hector Neris.

But Posey never got to swing the bat. On the first pitch, Neris drilled the Giants catcher in the ribs with a 95 MPH fastball.

Posey whinced in pain and as he walked to first base, he appeared to ask Neris if the pitch was on purpose.

After the game, Posey was asked about the kerfuffle.

"I'm pretty certain he hit me on purpose. And it's just a shame because I wanted to compete that at-bat and he's got good stuff. But I guess he didn't feel like he couldn't get me out," Posey told reporters after the game.

Posey was asked if he could think of any incidents in previous games against the Phillies that could have led to the hit-by-pitch. He said no and asked the reporters if they could think of anything.

Posey's comments were brought to Neris after the game.

"It's stupid because nobody who watched that said, 'Oh he hit him on purpose in that situation,'" Neris told reporters, according to the Philly Inquirer.

Posey and Neris have faced each other just one time in the past. In the ninth inning of the June 3 matchup in Philadelphia, Posey flew out to left field.

Strickland hammered by Phils, Giants officially eliminated from NL West contention

Strickland hammered by Phils, Giants officially eliminated from NL West contention


SAN FRANCISCO -- Madison Bumgarner pitched six innings in one of his best starts this season, took a line drive off his left shin and hit an RBI single that temporarily gave the Giants an early lead.

The reward? A heaping of praise from manager Bruce Bochy, handshakes from his teammates and another no-decision - Bumgarner's third in eight starts since coming off the disabled list.

Philadelphia rookie Rhys Hoskins homered again, Pedro Florimon contributed with his bat and arm, and the Phillies scored three runs in the eighth to beat the Giants 5-2 on Sunday.

In what has been a theme for San Francisco much of the season, Bumgarner's efforts were overshadowed by another meltdown from the Giants' bullpen.

"I thought it was a good day for Madison," Bochy said. "We had it lined up like we wanted as far as the bullpen. (Hunter Strickland) just had an off day making some mistakes."

Bumgarner allowed one run and four hits. He stayed in despite taking a sharp line drive off his left shin in the second inning by Nick Williams - earlier this month, Williams hit Mets ace Jacob deGrom in the triceps with a line drive, forcing him from the game.

"I tried to do a kick save but I wasn't very good at soccer," Bumgarner said. "It almost worked out."

Hoskins connected for a solo drive in the ninth inning, making him the first Phillies player in at least 100 years to hit five home runs in his first 11 major league games.

"I got to better counts, I think this week, and the results show," Hoskins said.

Florimon hit a two-run single off Strickland (2-3) to cap a three-run eighth inning that made it 4-2. Florimon also had an RBI double off Bumgarner in the second, then made a sparkling defensive play in left field to throw out Buster Posey at the plate in the bottom of the inning.

It was Florimon's first major league game in left field.

"I just try to catch the ball and throw the ball to home plate and see what happens," Florimon said. "I made a good throw."

Adam Morgan (2-1) retired three batters for the win, a day after throwing just one pitch and getting the victory.

Hector Neris pitched 1 1/3 innings for his 15th save. He struck out Pablo Sandoval with the bases loaded to end the eighth after hitting Posey in the back with a pitch, then fanned Denard Span with two on in the ninth to end it.

The Phillies won the season series against the Giants for the first time since 2011.

Philadelphia trailed 2-1 going into the eighth. Hoskins and Maikel Franco hit consecutive one-out singles before Jorge Alfaro tied it with an RBI single. After Williams singled to load the bases, Florimon slapped a 1-2 pitch into right field.

Posey had two hits and an RBI, extending his hitting streak against the Phillies to 22 games. Kelby Tomlinson scored a run and Ryder Jones doubled and scored for San Francisco.

Posey had a rough afternoon physically. In addition to taking a 95 mph fastball in the back, Posey also appeared to get hurt while tagging out a sliding Cameron Perkins at the plate in the second.

Afterward, the Giants' All-Star catcher voiced his displeasure about Neris.

"I'm certain that he hit me on purpose," Posey said. "It's just a shame because I wanted to compete that at-bat and he's got good stuff. But I guess he didn't feel like he could get me out."

Giants 2B Joe Panik (concussion symptoms) continues to make steady progress and could come off the disabled list in time to join San Francisco on its upcoming road trip that begins Friday in Arizona.

Phillies: The team gets an off day before hosting Miami in a doubleheader Tuesday. RHP Dan Straily (7-8, 3.80 ERA) pitches in the first game and RHP Jose Urena (11-5, 3.61 ERA) goes in the nightcap.

Giants: RHP Chris Stratton (1-2, 4.91) faces Milwaukee on Monday.