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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Posey's throw largely overlooked in din of Ross' walkoff hit

It was largely overlooked in the din of Cody Ross' game-winning RBI single, but Buster Posey's throw to nail would-be base thief Justin Upton in the top of the ninth was a game-changer in itself.

Upton picked the right pitch to go on Brian Wilson, a hard slider breaking low and away to right handed hitter Chris Young. He got a good jump. His only mistake was picking the wrong guy to run on.

Posey reached across his body, picked the pitch off his shoe tops and in one athletic movement transferred the ball from glove to hand and threw a bullet to Freddie Sanchez to nail Upton by a wide margin. No argument from Upton, just a stunned look, like 'how'd that happen?"

It happened because the Giants have the most athletic and strong-armed catcher since Ivan Rodriguez in his prime. He threw a 92 MPH fastball for a strike to second that Barry Zito only wishes he could do from the mound.

It was the kind of pitch that could easily have thrown off Posey's mechanics: with his body leaning rightward to grab the pitch sailing wide, Posey's throw could have tailed toward right center if he hadn't kept his center of gravity.

Keeping a runner out of scoring position in the ninth inning of a 0-0 game is about as key a play as it gets, made all the more important when Wilson proceeded to walk Young. No telling what kind of rally the Diamondbacks kick into gear with runners at first and second, what kind of torture up Wilson's sleeve.


Wilson, by the way, has become quite the vulture on this homestand. He's won three games by pitching one inning each -- the decisive last innings before the Giants' recent spate of walkoff wins. He's got a long way to go, though, before he can think about the ultimate vulture season: Reliever Elroy Face, in 1959, went 18-1.

Face had already picked up his fourth win by May 10, would go on to 7-0 by the end of May, 12-0 by the end of June, and so on. The pixie (5-foot-6) palmballing Pittsburgh Pirate pitched (alliteration intended) in an era where closers didn't have defined roles and weren't concerned with the all-consuming "save" stat that wouldn't be created until 1968 -- so, would be called on in crucial moments, whether it was the fifth or ninth inning.

In Face's 18 wins, 14 came in stints of two innings or more -- eight of which went three innings or longer. Face was in close games longer, so his chances of winning were actually pretty high. Wilson's three wins are all the more fortuitous: his one inning of shutdown pitching have just happened to directly precede three straight game-winning rallies.


I was puzzled by Mercury News' Andrew Baggerly's description of Cody Ross' game winning hit -- he "dumped" one down the line.

Dumped, to me, suggests that it plopped softly, and therefore was hit weakly. Ross' hit was the furthest thing from being dumped. He turned on a 95 MPH fastball in on his hands and a little above the belt -- perhaps one of the toughest fastballs to hit -- getting the barrel out to meet the pitch squarely, and scorched it down the third base line. It was hit so hard, Diamondback third baseman Melvin Mora barely moved as it flew by him.


Typically, you don't want to tinker with your lineup too much -- it creates a sense of instability among players and announces that you don't have great confidence in the guys you have in the lineup.

But in Bruce Bochy's case, moving pieces around makes the most sense -- given the lack of consistent offensive punch. With that said, it may be time to replace diminutive Mike Fontenot with Ross, the Giants hottest hitter, into the No. 3 spot.

Fontenot is hitless in his last seven at bats, 1 for his last 11 (though he had a game-winning sacrifice fly in that span). He could stay in at shortstop, for the time being, and hit lower -- seventh or eighth, or give way to Miguel Tejada, who is 2-for-4 lifetime vs. today's starting pitcher, Armando Galarraga.

Mark DeRosa had an ugly return from his stint on the disabled list, striking out once on a 92 MPH fastball up that he could not catch up to and grounding weakly into a double play with the bases loaded -- something that Tejada could have done with his eyes closed. But Bochy should give DeRosa a few games at third to get his swing back.

Aaron Rowand is now mired in a 5-for-27 slump (.185), so will likely find his playing time diminished. After a .294 April, Rowand is hitting .200 in May (7-for-35). Neither Nate Schierholz nor Pat Burrell have a history against Galarraga (well, Burrell has two RBI in no official at bats), and Galarraga gives it up a bit more against lefties: over the last three years, lefties have hit .272 with a .495 slugging, while righties hit .234 and slug .388 against him. So, a slight edge to Nate.

Galarraga, by the way, has had a very middling season: he's 3-2 with a 5.29 ERA. He's had three decent starts: he went seven innings twice against the Cubs, giving up seven earned runs total (4.50 ERA) with 11 hits, three walks and seven strikeouts. And, against the Reds, he gave up three earned runs on four hits with two walks and six strikeouts in six innings.


  1. I appreciate your comment on Cody's hit. I wasn't able to see the game; it's good to get another person's perspective. Thanks for you blog. I gobble up any information I can get about the Giants.

    I admired and appreciated your alliteration; you've a nice way with words. Thanks for your enthusiasm---the Giants are beginning to hit their stride. The lead boots of multiple injuries, which the Giants wore early this season are coming off. Just watch, I'm confident their offensive firepower will improve. With the support of an enhanced offense, their pitching will get better, too.

    Don't you agree?

  2. Thanks, also, for for your insight regarding Posey's throw to second.

  3. I am also loving the blog! I believe that Ford has been absolutely huge in his role for the Giants this year. He may be the scariest situational player in the game today. Pinch run, steal, harass the pitcher with a big lead on second and then jog home with a knock from a Giants hitter. I look forward to him in that situation, eagerly.

  4. thanks, guys. Mike, I meant to address Ford and his ability to distract the pitcher. I was sure Ford would try to steal third in Ross' at bat, and I'm sure Hernandez was worried about it too; hence the lack of finish on his pitch to Ross (though it was still a 95 MPH hummer).

    Paul, I agree: it's only a matter of time that the Giants offense actually starts to click. Though, it is a team that will go through dry spells through the season. They've got streaky hitters (Ross, Sanchez, Burrell), but they also have guys who have not gotten untracked -- and will -- like Posey, Huff. It's a long season.