LOS ANGELES – Buster Posey is as laconic as they come, but he almost seemed to make a sport of his postgame interview after the Giants’ latest disheartening setback Wednesday night – a 4-2 loss that completed a three-game sweep at Dodger Stadium.
Posey hit a two-run home run against Clayton Kershaw. It was his first against the former Cy Young award winner. Anything he’s gleaned from those previous at-bats?
“I think it’s the same,” Posey said. “Just try to get a good pitch to hit.”
The Giants have lost 25 out of their last 40 games, beginning with those two embarrassments in Toronto – the lowest winning percentage in the majors since May 14. Is this off day coming at a good time?
“It’s a good chance to catch our breath,” said Posey, “and then look forward to getting back to work.”
When it was pointed out that the Giants faced a similar gloomy stretch as they entered July in 2010, just before they took off as a club, Posey declined to delve into any similarities between then and now.
“One day at a time,” he said, holding eye contact with the questioner. “And keep working.”
What else could the reigning NL MVP have said? That the Giants appear incapable of playing a mistake-free game from start to finish? That the rotation is fallible, the bullpen is even more fallible, and the sixth inning has become a minefield for manager Bruce Bochy? That Pablo Sandoval looks far too plump to be a savior? That all those raucous comebacks, which saved them in April and May, were an unsustainable way to win a division?
Or … that if Posey were behind the plate in the sixth inning, he wouldn’t have dropped the ball when Hanley Ramirez stole second base, and he wouldn’t have thrown wide in the dirt when Andre Ethier did the same?
None of those were Posey’s words, to be clear. But they were muttered by enough folks within arm’s reach of their favorite Internet device or a hotline to Marty Lurie. This suddenly spoiled fan base is angry, and angry mobs usually want to burn something or someone.
And for them, Hector Sanchez was more convenient than presoaked briquettes Wednesday night.
Ramirez and Ethier had one stolen base between them all season entering the sixth inning. Both of them swiped their way into scoring position against Sanchez, who hasn’t thrown out an attempted base stealer in nine tries.
Ramirez positioned himself to score the tying run on Ethier’s single. Ethier positioned himself to score on A.J. Ellis’ tiebreaking double. Add in a wild pitch that ended Tim Lincecum’s night, and the Giants lost their fourth consecutive game and their sixth out of seven. And now, they’re nearer to the NL West cellar (2 ½ games ahead of the Dodgers) than they are to first place (3 ½ behind Arizona).
Base stealers are 14 for 14 against Lincecum – the most against any major league pitcher without a caught stealing. But Bochy was quick to absolve his right-hander of the two stolen bases, saying Lincecum did a good job throwing over and varying his times.
“Oh yeah, sure,” said Bochy, when asked if Sanchez had a shot at both runners. “He couldn’t get the ball out of his glove there, and the other one, the throw beat him. He just threw it in the dirt. … We just shot ourselves in the foot with a couple stolen bases we couldn’t handle.”
I asked Bochy: When you know it’s probably going to be a low-scoring, one-run game against a pitcher like Kershaw, why start Sanchez, who hasn’t looked sharp throwing out runners all season? Why not go with Guillermo Quiroz, at least?
First, Bochy reiterated that it was important he get Posey a two-day break from catching, combined with Thursday’s travel day – the last day off the club will have before 17 consecutive to head into the All-Star break.
Left unsaid: Quiroz hasn't been throwing lasers of late, either -- although he's nabbed four of 10 attempted base stealers this season, and hasn't allowed a passed ball.
“Hector, he’s been doing a pretty good job with Timmy,” Bochy told me. “They seemed to work well together. That’s why he had the game, and the thing is, Hector, he’s actually a pretty good thrower. He’s healthy. He’s just in a funk right now.”
Lincecum hadn’t been in a funk. He was having an improved June, and for five innings, he threw strikes while mixing four pitches. He only issued one walk and had one other three-ball count until he faced Ethier in the sixth.
But Lincecum lamented maybe being too aggressive, leaving too many pitches over the plate when ahead in the count. The Dodgers rapped 10 hits off him, matching his career high, although only two of them were truly smoked.
He knows better than to make mistakes and expect to beat Kershaw. The Dodgers’ ace is 5-0 with a flat-out laughable 1.02 ERA in six starts against him.
There’s no way to make sense of that. But asked for some perspective on a 38-40 team, Lincecum offered his best platitudes.
“It’s about digging deep and looking at the guy next to you, knowing you’re here for the same reason we were last year,” he said. “Once you get back to that mindset and get back to having fun, that’ll springboard us to bigger innings and more zeroes as pitchers.”
Posey’s thoughts were more streamlined. Maybe he felt a bit combative after another frustrating loss. More likely, he just knows the truth.
Talk is cheap. And the Giants have spent too much time talking about how they’re better than the way they’ve played.
At least the Giants have a healthy Posey. That’s something that was denied to him the last time they tried to defend a World Series title.
So, Buster, how is your energy level? How are you feeling?
“I’ve been feeling pretty good,” he said.
Just one postgame note to pass along:
Ryan Vogelsong can start working on getting a suntan back on his right hand. He was cleared to take off his splint, which was protecting his fractured pinky, and should be able to start gripping a baseball soon.
Remember, Vogelsong cannot be activated any earlier than July 20. And he’s likely to need a little bit longer to rebuild his arm strength and his pitch count.