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Giants' rookie Posey a full-fledged star
Before his first at-bat of the series, Phillies leadoff man Shane Victorino turned to Giants catcher Buster Posey and said, “Not too long ago, you were at Florida State, playing us in spring training.”
Victorino was referring to an exhibition game that took place in February 2008, just a few months before the Giants made Posey the fifth overall selection in the amateur draft.
“He kind of giggled — ‘Yeah, I remember,’” Victorino said. “I was complimenting on him how far he has come.”
The kid is 23. He is the Giants’ cleanup hitter and catcher for one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. But never has the extent of his remarkable progress been more evident than it was Wednesday night in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.
The Giants are one win away from reaching their fourth World Series since moving to San Francisco in 1958 — one win away in large part because their rookie catcher turned in an epic performance in an epic 6-5 victory.
Posey went 4-for-5 with two doubles, a pair of two-out RBIs and a single off Phillies right-hander Roy Oswalt after a stunning at-bat in the decisive ninth inning. He also made a terrific snatch-and-tag on a short-hop throw from center fielder Aaron Rowand in the fifth to retire the Phillies’ Carlos Ruiz at home plate.
History buffs, take note: Posey is the first rookie in the San Francisco era and second in club history to produce four hits in a postseason game. The first? None other than Freddy Lindstrom, who had four hits in Game 5 of the 1924 World Series against the Washington Senators.
To think, Posey began the night 1-for-11 in the NLCS, including 0-for-3 off Oswalt in Game 2. He said in the interview room that he just tried to relax, keep everything simple, cut down on his movement at the plate.
“Ever since he has been up here, he has done nothing but make adjustments,” said former major leaguer Will Clark, a special assistant in the Giants’ front office.
“Perfect example — the other night he did not have good at-bats against Oswalt. Tonight he throws out one of the best at-bats off Oswalt that you’ll ever see.”
Oswalt started the ninth for the Phillies, making his second career postseason appearance in relief after throwing a bullpen session earlier in the day. With one out, Aubrey Huff singled to right, bringing Posey to the plate.
First pitch, swinging strike. Then three straight foul balls, including a near opposite-field double down the right-field line. At one point, it appeared Posey might have broken his bat. But on a 1-2 count, he finally achieved his desired result, a single to right that sent Huff to third and led to Juan Uribe’s game-winning sacrifice fly.
“I told him before the series that, barring Roy Halladay, who is the last guy you ever want to face as a hitter, this was a good matchup for him,” the Giants’ Mark DeRosa said, referring to the Phillies’ staff as a whole.
DeRosa said the Phillies “annihilate pull hitters, feast on guys who try to take ‘em deep.” Posey, though, works the ball the other way, drives the ball to right-center. His swing, Huff said, is “one of the greatest right-handed swings in baseball.”
Remember Derek Jeter in 1996, playing beyond his years and leading the Yankees to a World Series title at 22? Posey gives off the same vibe, even though Huff joked that Jeter has “got more money, is a lot skinnier and a lot better of a runner.”
An even more obvious comparison is Twins catcher Joe Mauer, but DeRosa mentioned his former Rangers teammate, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, saying Posey approaches his work in the same serious manner.
In the end, though, Posey is an original, making his own name.
The Giants held off promoting him until May 29, saying they wanted him to refine his defense. Well, Posey seems to be doing just fine catching Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Co. And there he was on Wednesday night, making his big-time play on Ruiz.
Posey was an All-American shortstop his freshman year at Florida State. He showed his infielder’s hands to snare Rowand’s throw on a short hop. Posey praised Rowand, saying he didn’t have to move to catch the ball. But he still had to tag Ruiz.
“That’s a do-or-die play — you either make it or you don’t,” said the Giants’ backup catcher, Eli Whiteside. “Sometimes you try to take a step forward to come get it. Sometimes you take a step back to play the long hop. He was pretty much right on top of the plate. It was a bang-bang play. He had to stick his nose in there.”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy, a former major-league catcher, says Posey has “a gift,” the ability to be both an offensive and defensive force at the position.
Just over two years ago, Posey was at Florida State, facing the Phillies in spring training. Now, he is the Giants’ best player, beating the Phillies in the National League Championship Series.
He has come so far. He has only just begun.
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