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Buster Posey’s resurrection leads Giants to victory

Buster Posey’s first home run since last June was the difference.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and a runner on first, Bryan Reynolds, who the Giants traded for Andrew McCutchen, represented the winning run. He did not drive in the tying or winning run, but BOY DID HE COME CLOSE.

I haven’t experienced so much dread watching a ball bounce around an outfielder since Juan Perez. But everything worked out just fine then, and everything worked out fine today. Unlike the Royals, the Pirates sent their runner, and as it turns out, when you send a runner from third when a middle infielder has the ball, they’re going to get thrown out.

The losing streak is over, which is nice, but there was another streak broken today that deserves more attention. No, the Giants didn’t score in the first inning. That streak still lives.

Buster Posey hit his first home run since June 19, 2018. That was 237 at-bats ago. He is risen.

It wasn’t a cheapie either. He hit it out into Tucker Country: dead center where not even Bryan Reynolds could catch it. Statcast tracked it at 107 MPH. That’s the hardest Posey has hit a ball in the air since August 10, and he had only hit five balls that hard since the beginning of the 2018 season.

The homer came immediately after a fastball down the middle that Posey couldn’t square up. It was a pitch that Posey should have destroyed. He got a similar pitch in his first at-bat that he couldn’t do anything with. Throughout his career, Posey has been unimpressed with high velocity, so it’s been disconcerting to watch Posey struggle to do anything with low-90s meatballs.

If he can’t hit those kinds of pitchers, his hopes of being an above-average hitter again are basically nil. Dave Flemming even remarked that when the Giants throw that pitch, it’s trouble, but the Giants haven’t been able to take advantage of mistakes. So it’s a good thing that Chris Archer grooved another pitch and Posey pummeled it.

It wasn’t just that Posey finally squared up a fastball. He also did a much better job of laying off the slider low and away. Archer threw Posey four sliders below the zone, and Posey only swung at one of them. The only slider he saw in the zone, he hit for a double down the left field line. When he’s been struggling, he’s been vulnerable against the breaking pitches low and away. If his discipline against Archer is any indication, he could be on his way to resolving that.

There have been hints that Buster Posey was getting back to normal. In Washington, he came a foot away from ending his homerless drought. He’s been hitting the ball harder and with more regularity. One home run doesn’t mean that Buster Posey is Back, but it’s another piece of evidence that he’s on his way.

Dereck Rodríguez was perfect the first time through the order. It wasn’t until Cole Tucker’s leadoff double in the fourth that the Pirates mustered a baserunner. It looked as if Rodríguez might make it through the fourth without any damage done. He got two quick outs and got ahead on Josh Bell. But a 2-2 changeup that was supposed to catch the outside hung out over the plate and Bell almost put it in the Allegheny.

Those pitches to Tucker and Bell were Rodríguez’s only real mistakes. He got just four strikeouts, but he kept the Pirates off balance. He got 10 whiffs on 35 swings. He’s been a prime candidate for regression, but so far, he’s looked like the same guy.

Bruce Bochy deserves some credit for being quicker with the hook. After yesterday’s rain-shortened game, no one in the bullpen had thrown a pitch since Friday. There’s also an off day tomorrow, so there’s no reason not to turn things over to the bullpen when Rodríguez was facing the order a third time through.

Reyes Moronta has been reluctant to throw his changeup this year, but he threw four to Josh Bell alone. Moronta isn’t exactly a command pitcher, but he especially doesn’t look like he knows where the changeup is going. Sometimes it looks like a normal changeup and other times it has crazy arm-side run so it looks like a slider thrown by a lefty. If he could throw the latter purposefully, I’m not sure how anyone would ever get a hit off him again. The issue is whether he can command it.

The first-inning scoreless streak continued. The Giants managed to get a runner in scoring position with one out. Evan Longoria hit a would-be double, but Jung Ho Kang positioned himself right along the line. Not even a triple-clutch from Kang could preserve the inning.

Because they didn’t score in the first inning again, the Giants now own the National League record for scoreless first innings to begin the year.

Is this record fun? Should we care about the Giants chasing down the MLB record of 28 games? Should we root against the Giants scoring in the first just for the novelty of them setting an esoteric record? Should we be embarrassed on behalf of the Giants that they haven’t scored in the first inning?

No one is going to care about this record until another team threatens it. This streak is weird, but it’s not that weird. The only thing that’s interesting about it is that it’s the first inning. If the Giants had failed to score a run in the fourth inning, I’m not even sure we would notice.

I submit that the Giants should score a run in the first inning, so we don’t have to talk about this anymore.