SAN FRANCISCO -- Clutch hits, home runs and one of the strongest arms in the league. Giants fans have seen it all from Buster Posey this season. On Sunday afternoon at AT&T Park, they saw something that was unlike anything the stoic catcher had shown them before: a child-like, rookie emotion that was visible from a first-inning fist-pump to the postgame celebration after the Giants beat the Padres, 3-0, to clinch the National League West.
"It's hard to describe it in words," Posey said of going to the playoffs. "I mean, it's a great feeling. But there are guys in here that I wanted it more for them than for myself." Since his arrival on May 29, the business-like 23-year-old Posey has rarely even cracked a smile on the field, let alone unleash the excitement he displayed Sunday. In the top of the ninth when closer Brian Wilson struck out San Diego's Will Venable, Posey leaped out of his crouch behind home plate, sprinted to the mound and jumped in Wilson's arms. Usually, it's the pitcher who jumps in the catcher's arms in a postgame celebration. But when you're Posey, a leading National League Rookie of the Year candidate after hitting .305 with 18 homers and 67 RBIs, you're allowed to do things a little differently. In the eighth inning, with the Giants up, 2-0, Posey hit his 18th home run to give the Giants added cushion, breaking an 0-for-12 skid. "He's been hitting a lot of balls hard and he finally got a hold of one where they couldn't catch it," first baseman Aubrey Huff said. All season long, Giants manager Bruce Bochy has been peppered with questions about Posey's potential. After Sunday's division-clinching win, he was once again asked which catcher Posey reminded him of. Bochy mentioned two names: one a Hall of Famer, the other a future one. "Anytime you have a catcher who throws like Buster and hits in the heart of the order, you think of Johnny Bench," Bochy said. "You don't have many guys -- [Mike] Piazza ... but I think Buster certainly is a better thrower." Bench. Piazza. Posey. That's certainly a fine collection of talent. Only time -- and lots of it -- will tell if Posey does, indeed, belong. But with his team now in the playoffs, Posey certainly has the national stage to at least begin to make his case.
Cash Kruth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.