AT&T Park — Regardless of how the latter stages of his career play out, it’s hard to imagine the narrative around San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey ever going completely negative. He’s won an MVP and three World Series titles and has meant too much to the franchise and the fan base to find himself in the crossfire, even as the Giants struggle to build on the dizzying success they had earlier this decade.
Perhaps that’s part of the reason his declining offensive game has remained under the radar. While he’s still one of the most valuable all-around catchers in the sport, the past three years have quietly been some of his least productive at the plate, with this injury-plagued season bringing a dramatic reduction to his power numbers. He’s on pace for a career-low in home runs, and he’s notched just three extra base hits in the past 19 games.
After failing to come through with the bases loaded late in Friday’s loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, though, Posey stepped up in the third inning on Sunday and cleared the bases with a go-ahead three-run double. That hit — one of Posey’s four on the day — was part of a four-run frame that propelled the Giants to an 8-5 win, staving off a sweep.
“It was electric,” first baseman Austin Slater said of the dugout reaction. “It was a big turning point for us.”
San Francisco had averaged just 3.25 runs per game since the All-Star break, and recently received strong criticism from manager Bruce Bochy, who was away from the team Sunday so he could attend the MLB Hall of Fame induction ceremony in support of Trevor Hoffman.
“You could see the joy on everybody’s faces in the dugout that we finally broke through,” said bench coach Hensley Meulens, who filled in at manager. “And it was from our big, big hitter in the middle of the lineup.”
That’s not to say there aren’t worries regarding Posey, who hadn’t delivered a three-RBI hit since last August. Beyond his lack of power, the steep aging curves of modern catchers such as Joe Mauer and Victor Martinez suggest his above-average defense could soon decline. He’s dealt with hip pain throughout this season and missed the All-Star game to get an injection.
On Sunday, though, his 4-for-5 effort quieted those organizational concerns and distracted from widespread criticism of an entire cast of struggling stars, most of whom are under cumbersome contracts. It was Posey’s first four-hit game since September 15, 2016. He said his hip felt good this series.
“I’m sure he’s playing the best he can,” Meulens said. “Hopefully he can continue to help out in any way he can even though he’s not at 100 percent. He’s done that before, and he’s one of our best players so we need him to continue to produce.”
Every Giants starter reached base at least once. Left fielder Gorkys Hernandez hit his first home run since July 2. First baseman Pablo Sandoval hit a two-run stand up triple, then barely beat a throw home to score on a sacrifice fly. He left the game soon after with a right hamstring strain and will undergo an MRI on Monday. Right fielder Andrew McCutchen exited with a foot contusion after fouling several pitches off his body.
“It’s part of the game,” Sandoval said. “We take care of our body every day, we come out here and work … but we can’t control those things.”
Giants starter Andrew Suarez, who had received about three runs of support per game before Sunday, enjoyed the offensive outburst. He did enough to ensure it wasn’t wasted, settling down from a first-inning home run to go six innings. He allowed four runs and struck out four.
Bochy was credited for the victory despite being absent, allowing him to pass Casey Stengel for 11th all-time on the managerial wins list. Everyone ahead of Bochy is a Hall of Famer.
Rather than credit Bochy for the accomplishment, however, Posey jokingly said his manager should stay in Cooperstown another few days. At this point, the Giants are willing to do anything to get their offense going.