Playoff games don’t count in voting for seasonal awards, but Buster Posey certainly looked like an MVP as the Giants completed a remarkable comeback Thursday in Cincinnati, the first National League team to come back from a 2-0 deficit to win a division series.
Posey’s towering grand slam homer in the fifth capped a six-run rally for the Giants, and he also had a significant defensive play in the sixth. The Reds were rallying, with runners on first and second. Ryan Hanigan represented the tying run at the plate. Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker sent the runners, but Hanigan, instead of protecting the runners by swinging at a close pitch, took it for strike three and Posey fired a strike to third to get the base runner for a rally-killing double play.
Credit also has to go to Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who made all the right decisions, right up to Thursday’s game, when he stuck with Brandon Crawford at shortstop, though Joaquin Arias had a hot bat. Bochy wanted Crawford in the lineup for his defense, and Crawford made a couple of brilliant plays — and he also tripled down the right field line to start the Giants’ rally in the fifth.
Most of all, though, Bochy did an incredible job of managing his shaky pitching staff. This was nothing like 2010 when starters Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner were dominant. Cain had his best year, but hasn’t pitched up to his standard in either of the two games he started in the division series, though he got the win in Game 5.
Bumgarner started strong but faded, and his start on Sunday was disastrous. Lincecum had by far his worst season, and Bochy didn’t start him in this series.
Instead, he went with Ryan Vogelsong in Game 3, and Vogelsong kept the Giants in the game early until they won it miraculously in the 10th. But it was Game 4 which truly showed Bochy at his maneuvering best. He felt he had to give Barry Zito a start because he had pitched well down the stretch, but had little confidence in him. When Zito gave up two runs, including a Ryan Ludwick home run, Bochy lifted him with an out to go in the third. Then, he used Lincecum in relief for almost five innings, to keep the game under control. Lincecum pitched so well that he may get a start in the next round.
Bochy also got the most out of Jeremy Affeldt and used Sergio Romo as his closer. No more sending out Santiago Casilla and praying.
Much was made of the fact that Hunter Pence gave the Giants a pep talk when they fell behind in the series, but get serious. Are you telling me that professional athletes have to be talked into giving their best in the playoffs?
In fact, this Giants team is a resourceful one, and several players have stepped up since Melky Cabrera was suspended for failing a drug test.
Foremost of them has been Posey, who is an old-fashioned type of player, one who never boasts about himself. He uses his bat to do his talking. Thursday, the sound was thunderous.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.