SF Giants’ Posey delivers key hit in “the biggest moment of the season”

SAN FRANCISCO – Buster Posey came to the plate in the third inning with the bases loaded and, as has been the case in so many other big moments at China Basin, an exuberant crowd rose to its feet.

Posey took a called first strike, a slider from San Diego Padres pitcher Reiss Knehr that caught the top half of the zone. Knehr then tried to use a changeup to get to 0-2, but the pitch hung up and Posey smacked it to left field to score Logan Webb and Wilmer Flores for the game’s first runs.

As the crowd celebrated, Posey got back to first base and pumped his fist.

“It was just awesome to see,” said Farhan Zaidi, the Giants’ president of baseball operations. “Somebody like (Posey who) kind of has that low-key demeanor who’s seen a lot and has been so successful.

“You see that and you know that these guys have been waiting a while to get back to the playoffs like this. It has got to be really validating.”

Posey and the Giants won the NL West title Sunday with an 11-4 win over the Padres. San Francisco finished the regular season with a 107-55 record, one game better than the Los Angeles Dodgers, as it captured its first division title since 2012.

“It’s just been such a collective effort. Contributions up and down,” Posey said. “We set the (franchise) record for homers (in a season) and pinch-hit homers. Those are some examples. You’ve got most the home runs ever for the team and nobody has 30.”

Posey added another RBI in the fourth inning, a line-drive single to center that capped a five-run rally and represented his 1,500th career Major League hit. But the milestone was secondary.

“The importance for me was the ability to drive in a run on both of those hits,” Posey said.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – OCT. 3: San Francisco Giants pitcher Dominic Leone (52) celebrates with teammate Buster Posey (28) after winning their game at Oracle Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. The San Francisco Giants defeat the San Diego Padres 11-4 to win the National League Western Division Championship. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

After a five-year wait, Posey will play in his 54th career postseason game Friday when the Giants host either the Dodgers or St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the NL Division Series.

“I mean, I’m a little tired right now,” Posey, 34, said. “We’ve got, fortunately, four days to rest and recover. But I’m excited about getting back to the playoffs.”

Giants manager Gabe Kapler sought to give Posey regular rest to stay fresh for a six-month grind. Posey responded by hitting .304, finishing a season above .300 for the first time since 2017 when he hit .320. He also had an OPS of .889, his best since his MVP season of 2012 when it .957.

And, of course, he factored heavily in the unexpected success of the Giants’ pitching staff.

He was leaned on heavily down the stretch, and came up big. After playing 88 of the first 132 games, he played 25 of the last 30. In that time, he hit .303 with 15 RBI.

That the Giants don’t need to play a 163rd game tiebreaker Monday, or a wild-card game Wednesday, came as a huge relief to everyone, fans included. It would have been draining, emotionally and physically.

Instead, the Giants will have days to regroup and refresh.

Posey said it’s “hard to put a value on how big (the extra rest) is. It’s definitely nice — not just the physical side of it — but just to mentally be able to take a couple of days and start preparing for the NLDS.”

Posey did not play last year out of concern for his adopted twin baby girls, who were born about eight weeks premature last July amid the pandemic.

The time off also gave Posey’s body a chance to fully heal after a 2019 season in which he dealt with a concussion, a hamstring injury, and back and hip issues. Posey also had hip surgery in August 2018.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – OCT. 3: San Francisco Giants’ Buster Posey (28) celebrates with teammate Curt Casali (2) after their game at Oracle Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. The San Francisco Giants defeat the San Diego Padres 11-4 to win the National League Western Division Championship. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

“Last year there were so many factors in his life, right?  Two new children and a decision to opt-out, that we all respected,” Giants President and CEO Larry Baer said. “And I can’t say what that meant physically, you’ll have to ask him, but it gave him another year, certainly, to focus on coming back strong.”

Posey capped an unlikely regular season in game No. 162 with one of the biggest hits of the season — at least in Zaidi’s eyes.

“Talking about emotions, seeing the way Buster reacted after he got that two-run single, which was really the biggest moment of the season, in a season with many moments,” Zaidi said. “We’ve had trouble scoring runs the last few games, and we knew that it was important to get on the board early.”

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Author: Curtis Pashelka