View Full Game Coverage
FRANCISCO -- The Giants are fortunate to be here, still alive, in a very good place with Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain lined up for Games 6 and, if needed, 7 against the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, which will resume on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. PT on FOX.
They are lucky, because Buster Posey, without debate their best player and possibly the NL's most valuable, hasn't done anything to help them get here.
But if Posey, thus far 3-for-18 in the NLCS with neither a run scored nor an RBI, remains quiet, odds are heavily against the Giants being able to convert another postseason comeback and seeing the World Series on anything but their televisions.
In a couple of weeks, Posey is likely to add a Most Valuable Player Award to his credits. He is one of the favorites for the honor, for helping spark the Giants to a 94-win season with 103 RBIs, an astounding 40 more than anyone else on the team (Pablo Sandoval), and for being the first catcher to cop the league's batting title since Ernie Lombardi of the wartime 1942 Boston Braves.
The list of eventual MVPs slumping through recent postseason series is stunningly long. The track record of teams overcoming their star players' slack is dismal.
Over the last quarter century, a total of 14 MVPs scuffled through postseason series. Only one team dealt with that handicap well enough to triumph: The 2008 Red Sox beat the Angels in the American League Division Series, despite Dustin Pedroia going 1-for-17 in the four games.
About the only thing Posey has hit in the NLCS is Roberto Kelly. It was a batting-practice ball off his bat that struck San Francisco's first-base coach during workouts the day before Game 1, resulting in the mild concussion that had kept Kelly out of his box until Friday night.
Posey's importance to the Giants is illustrated by the fact they likely would have hit an early postseason wall without him. His one big strike was the grand slam in the 6-4 win over the Reds in Game 5 of the NLDS.
As such, Posey's postseason thus far has paralleled what was seen across The Bay in 1988. In his very first at-bat of that October's World Series against the Dodgers, Jose Canseco of the Athletics, the American League MVP-to-be, struck a grand slam. It would be Canseco's only hit of the Series, as he went 0-for-18 the rest of the way as Oakland lost in five games.
Posey not alone in struggles
Handcuffing the big guy has been sound strategy in the past. Here are the other MVP postseason flops since 1986:
Reds lose to Phillies
Rangers lose to Giants
Red Sox beat Angels
Phillies lose to Rockies
2-for-15 with no RBIs
Yankees lose to Angels
Angels lose to Red Sox
A's lose to Twins
Mariners lose to Yankees
2-for-11 with no RBIs
Cubs lose to Braves
1-for-12 with no RBIs
Rangers lose to Yankees
Ken Griffey Jr.
Mariners lose to Orioles
Red Sox lose to Indians
3-for-18 with one RBI
Pirates lose to Reds
Athletics lose to Dodgers
At least Canseco got in that one hit. Since 1986, only one MVP has endured the ignominy of a hitless postseason series: Mo Vaughn, the Boston first baseman who went 0-for-14 in the 1995 AL Division Series -- the very first one -- as the Red Sox were getting swept by the Indians.
Vaughn gave a better accounting of himself in his only other postseason appearance, in 1998 against the same Cleveland team. In that ALDS, he enjoyed a seven-RBI game, which put him in a better mood to reflect on having laid the earlier egg.
"In '95, I had an MVP season, and then I came [to the playoffs] and did nothing," Vaughn had said. "It was hard to take. I had the completely wrong approach. Let's face it; you've got to admit your failures and see if you can learn from your mistakes."
Giants manager Bruce Bochy tried to provide Posey with better lineup protection, but dropped the experiment after one game. In Game 4, Posey moved into the three-hole so he could hit ahead of Sandoval, who was coming off a two-hit game, rather than Hunter Pence, batting .091 at the time. But Sandoval and Posey were back in their familiar 3-4 slots for Game 5.
"I just felt that's how we got here, and that's how we need to stay," said Bochy, who commended Cardinals pitchers for testing Posey's patience by pitching around him, but also conceded that his catcher hasn't taken advantage of some hittable pitches.
"A little bit of both," Bochy said. "It's obvious they're being careful. They've come out and said that. They've thrown him 3-0 sliders, they've put him on base. He's getting some decent pitches, but not a lot to hit. But he's a patient hitter. So our hope is that he doesn't expand [his strike zone] and he'll take the walks, and the next guy hopefully keeps it moving.
"We can't put all this on Buster. That's a lot to carry or a lot to ask of him when they're really not giving him a lot to hit. It's going to be up to all the lineup to do something to contribute."