DENVER – Manager Bruce Bochy might have delivered the pregame talk Saturday afternoon, but the Giants are Buster Posey’s team.
He is the reigning National League MVP. He is the rare combination of catcher and cleanup hitter. That means he is the mathematical focus of every aspect of every game he starts behind the plate.
So what happens when the Giants are so completely unfocused as a group? When their rotation has a 10.27 ERA on the five-game road trip, and a 4.81 ERA through more than a quarter of the season?
Does Posey allow these games to take shape in his mind, long after they are over?
“Sure,” said Posey, after Tim Lincecum gave up six runs in five innings of a 10-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies. “My job as a catcher is to give these guys the best chance to succeed. So when they’re not successful, I’m partly responsible for that.”
[RECAP: Rockies 10, Giants 2]
Lincecum made one of the Giants’ three errors on the night – and one of 12 in the first five games of this road trip. It’s the first time in more than 13 years that the Giants have committed as many as 12 errors in a five-game span.
Lincecum acknowledged he was, like many others, guilty of pressing, of trying to do too much, of letting frustration and desire cloud his judgment. After he bobbled Josh Rutledge’s nubber, he should’ve just held the ball. Instead, he made a desperate throw to first base that was as out of control as a shopping cart in a poorly graded parking lot.
That was the first sin amid a three-run third inning. The second one was allowing that frustration to affect him the rest of his night.
“Trying to make something there when it’s not possible,” Bochy said. “That’s what we’ve got to stop doing, is compounding the problem. That might have frustrated him, that inning, and cause him to lose some focus. He can answer that better than me.”
“After that, I just didn’t collect myself and concentrate,” Lincecum said. “It just unraveled.”
Posey is not responsible, of course, for drops in velocity or mistake pitches or the bulk of execution mistakes made by Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, Matt Cain and the rest. It's not as if everything would be different if Guillermo Quiroz were behind the plate for every start. It's not like anyone is blaming Posey for the rotation being such a disappointment thus far.
But as Bochy often says, if it's not working, change something. And Posey, in general, doesn’t make many mound visits. Maybe he needed to go out and help Lincecum reset himself. Maybe that’s one of the things he’ll tumble over in his mind after the Giants fell to 1-4 on this road trip.
And as Bochy pointed out, they only secured that lone victory after the offense erased a 6-0 deficit.
“This is a tough group,” Bochy said. “They’ve bounced back, been resilient, had our backs against the wall many times. What’s important is we get this pitching back on track.”
Posey said he does believe the starters will get back on track, and it’s “something that can turn around really quickly.”
I asked him: Their track records aside, what has he seen this year that makes him believe it will turn around for these five starters?
“There’s been a few stretches this year where they’ve put together some good starts,” he said. “I guess it’s kind of hard to say, aside from their track record, because they do have such good track records. It’s not like you can ignore that.”
In the meantime, it’s obvious what the rest of the team must do. They must catch the ball, take the outs that are given to them, and try to make the bathwater as close to body temperature as possible so these starters can settle in.
“I feel like people want to press because everybody wants to make the big play,” Lincecum said. “That’s just the way we are. We’re just going to take it personally when we don’t do well.”
Pressing is “necessarily a bad thing,” said Posey, “because you know, you’re searching, you’re working to try to get it right. Sometimes it’s just best to step back and take a deep breath.”
The Giants will have to breathe quickly with an afternoon start Sunday. They’ll hand the ball to Barry Zito, who has been magnificent at home (3-0, 0.55 ERA in five starts), and less so on the road (0-2, 11.25 in three starts).
Posey said if there’s one thing the Giants do well, it’s wash off the previous game. Besides, they already tried the team-meeting approach.
It comes down to this: Posey might be the focus, but the rotation still bears the weight of this team. And nothing would make everyone breathe easier than a well-pitched game.
Until then, they’ll just have to find a way to deal with the tension.
As bard-in-residence Hunter Pence described it: “It can tie you up in a game that’s fluid.”
No Extra Baggs file with a day game looming, but I wanted to share an enjoyable scene from the pregame clubhouse:
Posey was watching the Florida State baseball team on TV, and so I asked one of the players if he’d ever seen the Youtube video of Posey as the closer for the Seminoles, throwing a huge, roundhouse punch after striking out the last hitter to record a big save.
I showed the clip on my phone to Madison Bumgarner, who couldn’t stop laughing and told me, “I am so glad that I got to see that.”
When I played the video for Posey, I asked him one question: “Who is that guy acting all crazy?”
“I had to channel my inner closer-ness,” Posey said.
I told him I’d never seen him do anything like that on the field before.
“You’ve never seen me pitch!” he replied.