ORACLE PARK — As Giants manager Bruce Bochy walked through the bowels of Oracle Park early Friday before San Francisco’s 6-2 win over the Diamondbacks, he saw catcher Buster Posey working in the batting cage with hitting coach Rick Schu.
Just before he went down with a hamstring injury, Posey — struggling through his worst season at the plate as a pro — had started to come around, hitting .353 (6-for-17) in six games. Since coming back, he’d had just 5-for-49, and was 0-for-16 headed into Friday.
Posey went 3-for-4 with a pair of two-out RBIs, looking for the first time in nearly two years like Oracle Park’s most beloved totem. Red-hot Brandon Crawford, too, added three hits for just the second time this season — including his 1,000th career knock — to help the Giants and rookie starter Shaun Anderson end the first half on a positive note.
“I’ve said it so many times: These good hitters, they’ll find it,” Bochy said. “If we do that, then things are going to look really good in the second half, but we need these core guys to really come through for us. You saw what happened tonight when they do.”
The surgery to repair Posey’s ailing hip in September of last year was supposed to help the former MVP regain some of his lost power and consistency at the plate. Through the first 80 games of 2018, though, the six-time All-Star has the lowest OPS+ of his career, the lowest batting average of his career, the second-lowest isolated power of his career and his highest strikeout rate (15.7%) in seven years, and just 18 RBIs in 57 games played.
By peripheral stats, both he and Crawford should have been doing better at the plate. Over the first 64 games, Crawford had a .202 batting average with five homers and 56 strikeouts to 23 walks over his first 64 games, with a .245 batting average on balls in play, compared to his career baBIP of .296.
The most frustrating part about Posey’s numbers thus far had been that his hard-hit rate was within his career norms, at 34.6% (career 33.6%), but his batting aveage on balls in play was .263 — well below his career .322, and below even what, by conventional measures, was a dismal 2018 (.316 baBIP). This year, he’s had his highest barrel percentage since 2016, and yet, his three-hit day on Friday was his first since August of 2018.
“For the most part this year, I haven’t felt great,” Posey said. “Obviously, that goes along with what my numbers are. I think the big thing is swinging at good pitches, but if you feel like you’re not in a good position to get to certain pitches, you tend to chase a little bit. Hopefully, if I can get in a good position to fire, I’ll be able to swing at better pitches.”
Crawford did two things to snap out of his funk: He pulled up his pant legs after seeing Tyler Austin get a homer and a double with the high hoisery, and he went back to doing one-handed hitting drills to get his hands in a better hitting position. Posey found a way to get his lower half in a better position to hit pitches away. Both worked.
Following a second-inning Alex Dickerson homer — his second in eight games with San Francisco — the Giants got a man on second with one out in the third for Posey, who took a 2-2, 93-mph fastball off the literal last brick on the right field arcade for an RBI double — inches away from his first home homer this season — staking the Giants took a 2-0 lead.
“I’d really felt his swing was coming back there before that hamstring injury, and he’s had a tough time getting that timing back. Tonight, he had it,” Bochy said. “The two-strike ball that just missed being a home run, that’s a great piece of hitting there.”
After the Diamondbacks got a run back, Posey came up big again.
After a pair of hits glanced off Giants’ mitts in the top of the fifth, Posey did the same in the bottom of the frame. Joe Panik reached on a single to right and Mike Yastrzemski flared a base hit to left, before Posey lanced a 1-1 liner off Ketel Marte’s glove and into right for an RBI single.
Anderson got over the early-game struggles that had plagued his first season in the Majors and zipped through the first three innings, and he got through 5 2/3 innings before being pulled. It was the first time in five starts he hadn’t gone six.
“It’s been neat watching his progress,” Bochy said of Anderson, lowering his ERA to 3.86. “You can see it in him. It feels like he belongs, and he really got off to a good start tonight. They threw out some pretty good at-bats, but he made pitches to limit the damage.”
After Crawford poked his 1,000th career hit in the sixth — a double to left — an excuse-me check-swing groundout by Austin brought him in. Crawford — who doubled in the second and sixth, and beat out an infield single in the fourth — is now hitting .357 over his last 12 games, and has 14 doubles on the year. His 1,000th hit makes him the fifth left-handed hitter in the franchise’s West Coast history to reach four digits, following Willie McCovey (1,974), Barry Bonds (1,951), Will Clark (1,278) and J.T. Snow (1,007).
“It’s pretty crazy,” Crawford said. “It’s hard to put into words to be on a list like that, especially growing up a Giants fan, and kind of appreciating those names.”
Both Posey and Dickerson — hitting .407 since joining the Giants — played a part in the two-run seventh, as Posey dunked a single into right to move Yastrzemski to second, Pablo Sandoval sacrificed both runners over and Dickerson lined a 1-2 single to right off of Lamb’s mitt. A wild pitch to Kevin Pillar brought Posey in to score, giving San Francisco a four-run lead, more than enough for baseball’s fifth-best bullpen.
“Good hitters, they have a knack for just figuring out what they need to do,” Bochy said of Posey. “My hope is, a night like tonight, that’s something that will get him back to who he is. You can’t forget how good you are.”