After the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers alternated series sweeps in each other’s home parks, this series seemed more normal — two wins by the home team sandwiching a close win for the road squad. The resulting National League West landscape looks like this: the Dodgers now find themselves 5.5 games behind the Giants, who lowered their magic number to 17.
The Giants have 22 games remaining to play; the Dodgers have 21.
Today there were several heroes wearing cream-colored uniforms and hats with orange bills, and the unlikeliest was clearly Barry Zito. After giving up a double to Mark Ellis to lead off the game, Zito retired the next six hitters he faced. Zito was outstanding on a night where he was once again throwing to Buster Posey after a brief hiatus.
The last time Zito and Posey worked together, Zito only last 2.1 innings in Houston and afterward caused a bit of a kerfuffle when he blamed himself … for not shaking Posey more. It was seen as a passive aggressive move from a pitcher who, for whatever reason, seemed to feel more comfortable with Hector Sanchez laying down signs.
I asked Zito about what it was like to work with Posey, seeing as he was able to get into a rhythm so quickly after that hit by Ellis.
“We were clicking on all cylinders out there. It was good to go out there and have a good game with Pose because he’s going to be in there a lot, and it was fun working with him today,” Zito said.
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The Giants dodged a couple bullets this weekend, with Matt Kemp not playing on Saturday or today and Clayton Kershaw getting scratched this afternoon, replaced with Joe Blanton. However, nobody felt sympathy for the Giants when their best player, Posey, missed the majority of last season.
Now, Posey is a bonafide MVP candidate. Check that — he’s the frontrunner, and two incredible games this weekend (on Fox and ESPN, no less) had to have helped his chances at adding a second, better trophy to the Comeback Player of the Year award he’s almost guaranteed to earn. On Saturday and Sunday, Posey’s combined numbers looked like this: 4-for-7 with a double and a homer, a walk, two runs, two RBIs and three Dodgers caught stealing.
I asked Bruce Bochy after the win about Posey’s MVP credentials. Here’s how the brief Q&A went.
BASG: Buster Posey had another great weekend. Obviously there’s a lot of baseball left to play and you’re working towards a team goal, but can you picture any other player in the league being more valuable to a team than he is to yours?
Bochy: No, I can’t. With what he’s done for us, really all year and then you go from the All-Star break on. Here you have a guy catching and hitting in the cleanup spot and has carried us at times. I can’t think of a guy that’s more valuable for a club than Buster is for us.
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I took Bochy’s comments and asked Sergio Romo if he agreed, just as Posey arrived at his own locker — which is just two away from Romo’s.
“I saw him when he first debuted and he looked like a Major League Baseball player, he looked like a true professional. What he’s been able to do up to this point, he’s living up to probably the expectations he had on himself,” Romo said. “I’ll tell you what, really, really happy he’s on our team and I get a chance to watch one of the best players in the game every day. Rather privileged. So yeah, he’s awesome.”
You can see that and more of what Romo said about Posey in the video below.
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— Just another 2-for-4 day for Angel Pagan with a stolen base. The triple was his 11th, putting him one behind Willie Mays (and Steve Finley, I guess) for the franchise record. Pagan also made a tough catch on a fly ball in the afternoon sun, guarding his eyes with his glove until the last possible moment.
— The team was packing up for their trip to Colorado. While waiting for Romo to turn around and face the media, I saw him place two last items in his suitcase: a home Patrick Willis jersey and an away Michael Crabtree jersey. Remember when Romo was wearing that 49ers hat that looked better suited for -30 degree temperatures and said he was a big fan? He wasn’t lying.
— I asked Romo if he saw the game. He said he saw the end of the game, and specifically mentioned seeing Ahmad Brooks’ sack of Aaron Rodgers and the NFL record-tying field goal from David Akers, which Romo described as (say it with me now) “awesome.”
— Speaking of that word, I walked up to Hunter Pence (who hit a huge double tonight to drive in two in the first inning) and asked him if they’d let him take the scooter I saw him use to exit the clubhouse on Friday on the road.
“No … that’d be awesome, though,” Pence said.
Pence told me that his scooter was custom-built for him by team chef Joe Day, who’s also making one for Pence’s girlfriend. The Giants right fielder, who rides the scooter from his apartment to the park, decided to get one after seeing a “souped up” scooter that Day designed for Brian Wilson.
I didn’t ask Pence how long that ride is or where his apartment is … asking another man about his scooter is one thing, but asking where he lives is something you just don’t do.