SAN FRANCISCO – Buster Posey.
He barely played Wednesday, but he was the key figure in a key sequence that led to a key Giants win.
Posey proved again that his worth to the Giants cannot be underestimated. The defending World Series champions are not a one-man team, but there is only one Buster Posey.
Wednesday was a reminder that the difference between winning and losing games in the big leagues comes down to individuals who make a difference when it matters most.
Posey hit a pinch-hit single to lead off the bottom of the 10th inning after the Giants had blown a gem of an outing by starter Barry Zito. Posey then showed daring by advancing from second to third base on a wild pitch by Philadelphia Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo. Posey then touched the plate with the fourth Giants run in a 4-3 win after Andres Torres singled to end what easily could have been a loss.
A capacity crowd went home happy, though maybe not fully realizing the significance of what it had just seen.
Posey set the win in motion, though he sat almost all day to rest from the ravages of catching an enigmatic pitching staff and taking foul balls off his Adam's apple.
The result was a Phillies three-game series sweep of the Giants averted. A Giants losing streak was stopped at two games. The Giants remained in a favorable position in the National League West despite the near-collapse of a vaunted starting rotation in the first 34 games of a grinding season.
Posey. His worth cannot be underestimated.
When the Giants signed him to an eight-year, $167 million extension in late March, they were spending smart money on a proven icon on the verge of many stellar years to come.
Posey is only 26, just approaching the prime of a career already marked by a Rookie of the Year award, an MVP award, two World Series titles – and a horrific injury.
Posey is already an All-Star catcher on the cusp of his best years to come. He is unaffected by the commotion he causes, an invaluable character trait that any team would die for.
So many pro sports franchise are undermined by stars who shrink in big moments or by franchise players who put themselves above the team – or whose conviction wanes amid the accolades.
Posey is a Georgia-born lad in possession of a bedrock work ethic and a quiet lust for even more success than the glory he has already achieved.
When Posey completes a season, the Giants win the World Series. When he doesn't, they fail to make the playoffs.
As a catcher, his brain informs every on-field decision. His grit and determination ensure a steady Giants clubhouse. It's no accident that the Giants win so many games by coming from behind, a virtue achieved by selflessness, composure and confidence.
Posey isn't solely responsible for this grace under pressure, but he is the key component in a Giants team chemistry that makes them greater than the sum of their parts.
It's easy to lose that point in the daily grind of the season. I had, until after Wednesday's Giants win when my colleague José Luis Villegas – a Bee photographer – showed me an image of Posey swinging the bat.
There, in one picture, was an idol for our time – Buster Posey bearing an uncanny resemblance in his swing to the immortal Joe DiMaggio.
Clearly, Posey has a long way to go before he can truly be compared to the all-time greats of the game. But it's not a stretch to say that Posey is already one of the greats of his age. He has the looks, the quiet indifference to fame, the X-factor among competitive men, the pedigree of momentous achievements, the marketing ability to appeal to women, men and little kids who wear his number with near-religious zeal.
That's called being a star. You're born with it or you're not. Posey was, and Wednesday's overflow crowd reveled in it again like a nation of people holding a lottery ticket they know will pay off again and again for years.
Buster Posey. It's his world now.