SAN FRANCISCO – The changeover occurred somewhere between the time Pablo Sandoval connected with Jeff Samardzija’s toxic two-strike slider and the time the baseball clanked into the right field arcade.
At the end of Monday’s 8-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs, the numbers were fixed: Sandoval had a .413 slugging percentage – ahead of Buster Posey at .411.
That’s right. Sandoval hasn’t completely restored his pace following those first six mud-splattered weeks of steeplechases and strikeouts. But he caught up to Posey, who is going on week three of swinging through swamp water.
Maybe the Giants would be more concerned about Posey, who has a .128 average over his last 11 games. Except they just saw Sandoval go through the same thing, only for his talent finally to emerge. And nobody ever has questioned Posey’s talent.
“Every hitter goes through it,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s something we’re not used to, obviously, with Buster. He’s going to go through his ups and downs this year, and it’s fair to say he’s not seeing the ball well right now.
“But I’ll be answering this question with somebody else (in a month). That’s baseball.”
You talk to your franchise stars. You make resources like video and cage time available to them. But mostly, you leave them alone and have faith. Seeds don’t germinate overnight.
And if you’re not one of the franchise stars? Well, Bochy knows something about that, too.
“They never knew when I went through (a slump),” said Bochy, a .239 career hitter. “Merv Rettenmund used to have a saying. You’d be 1 for 20 and say, `Am I doing something wrong?’ He’d say, `Hey, you could be hot. We don’t know.’”
It’s a bonus when you get contributions from your backup catcher. It’s more integral that you get production from your No.3 hitter and former MVP. The Giants have absorbed Posey’s slump, as they absorbed Sandoval’s earlier struggles, because they are getting contributions from up and down the order. They’ve done an admirable job since losing Brandon Belt to a fractured thumb, too.
But sooner or later, a couple other guys will get caught in between pitches. And that’s when they’ll need Posey to carry the club – something he has done at times as well as any hitter in the NL.
So everyone at Third and King will feel better once they get Buster going, and the results were encouraging for Bochy on Monday. Hitting coach Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens is trying to get Posey to stand a little more upright at the plate, and that’s a change he incorporated while going 1 for 4 off a tough pitcher.
“He was getting his normal bat speed back,” Bochy said. “I think he felt a lot more comfortable. He looked a lot more comfortable.”
Posey sat out two games last week in Colorado with an irritated nerve in his lower back, and those issues do tend to linger. Bochy said the back was not a current issue, for what it’s worth.
Sometimes problems begin as physical issues and become mental ones. That’s what Bochy believes is happening with Posey now.
“When you’re not swinging it well, you’re not seeing it well,” Bochy said. “That’s part of the issue. When you’re not locked in, you get caught in between. You’re guessing. … Any time it’s in your head, then you start to think more about your mechanics. You get paralysis by analysis. But he’ll be fine.”
Giants notes: Bochy said he pinch hit David Huff in the fifth rather than use a position player because Hector Sanchez had taken a vicious foul tip and Michael Morse fouled a ball off his calf. Bochy is operating with just a four-man bench, and he wanted to keep two players in reserve in case he needed to replace Sanchez, Morse, or both. Sanchez said he is fine and was checked for a concussion, but he claimed he hasn't sustained one since twice getting his bell rung in the minor leagues. He did acknowledge he had some initial dizziness, though. Bochy said he expected both players would be available Tuesday.