The Fourth of July was not a happy holiday for the San Francisco Giants.
The club dropped its game on the Nation's birthday (the actual day of creation was July 2, but who's counting), which quickly washed away the smiles inspired by breaking a seven-game losing streak the previous day.
No small feat since, to add insult to injury, that reverse jag had featured a three-game sweep at the hands of the hated Los Angeles Dodgers in the City.
Even worse, the loss to the Colorado Rockies on the celebratory Sunday made it three defeats in four games to another National League West rival as well as 10 L's in 12 games.
It was a brutal stretch that ended June, started July, and dragged San Fran all the way down to fourth in the division.
The Giants were fighting desperately to keep their collective head above water at 41-40, 7.5 games behind the first-place San Diego Padres, and 4.5 games out of the Wild Card cat-bird's seat.
It got so ugly that many of the Jell-O-backboned "faithful" were bailing off the bandwagon left and right.
Internet chat boards lit up with ominous predictions about the Gents' future, including such panic-stricken madness as pleas for the team to be a seller as the trade deadline loomed.
Thankfully, general manager Brian Sabean has a stronger constitution.
24 days have elapsed since the Fourth and the San Francisco Giants have been on FIRE for every single one of them.
"On fire" is putting it too mildly—they're covered head-to-toe in white-hot lava. You can't get within 10 feet of them without vaporizing on the spot; look at them too long and you risk permanent blindness.
Aside from the three-day break for the All-Star Game, the Orange and Black has been on the clock non-stop since that loss in Denver. Consequently, they've played 21 games in 24 days.
They've lost only four times in those 21 contests.
Take a look at the four defeats:
July 9 at the Washington Nationals, 8-1 —Stephen Strasburg threw six scintillating frames, suffering four baserunners (three hits and a walk) and an earned run while whiffing eight en route to the win.
July 18 against the New York Mets in 10 innings, 4-3 —Travis Ishikawa actually slid home safely with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, but home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi butchered a pretty easy call.
July 21 at the Dodgers, 2-0 —Chad Billingsley sparkled on his way to the shutout, allowing only seven baserunners (five hits and two walks) while fanning three.
July 26 against the Florida Marlins, 4-3 —another gem twirled by Ricky Nolasco as the right-hander went 6 1/3 innings, ceding only five baserunners (four hits and a walk) and an earnie while striking out seven.
In other words, it's taken either an umpire's blunder or a special outing by a special pitcher to take the lads down since they righted the ship.
As for the righting, it's no stretch at all to isolate Buster Posey as the triggering catalyst for this particular pleasure cruise.
True, outfielders Andres Torres and Aubrey Huff have been revelations in 2010.
Torres is now the third most valuable outfielder in all of Major League Baseball behind only Josh Hamilton and Carl Crawford (as measure by wins above replacement). If you eliminate position from the equation and consider all offensive players, he's tied for sixth.
Huff, for his part, is sixth on the list for outfielders and just outside the top 10 for all offensive players.
Without either stud, San Francisco is dead in the water.
But they've been raking pretty consistently all year so, while they both deserve immeasurable credit for the club's success to date, they can't take this bit.
Nope, it belongs to Posey (with a nod to southpaw starter Madison Bumgarner).
When Sabes and los Gigantes sent veteran catcher Bengie Molina to the Texas Rangers for Chris Ray and Michael Main on July 1st, they officially broke the seal on the backstop of the future.
Simultaneously, they removed a block that was keeping a host of players from their optimal positions and cleared up playing time for more effective assets.
With Gerald Demp the Third behind the dish, it put first base back in the rotation for manager Bruce Bochy's game of musical lineup cards.
Boch was free to manipulate human Swiss Army knife Juan Uribe, Pablo Sandoval, and Aubrey Huff at will to find at-bats and rest for his mix of proven vets and up-and-coming rookies.
It took a few games for the new pieces to get comfortable and start running smoothly, but it's been quite a sight to behold ever since things clicked. A sight that wouldn't have been possible without the 23-year-old phenom.
Posey's been excellent in all facets—his throwing cannon has greatly eased the strain of the opposition's running game on the pitching staff, his handling of said staff has drawn no criticism, and then there's his bat.
Oooooh, his bat.
During his 21-game hit streak, the kid has scalded the ball—he's 37-for-84 (.440 BA) with six bombs and 23 runs batted in.
Overall, the picture's just as pretty.
Posey's slashing along at .363/.401/.558 with 29 runs, 34 ribbies, eight big flies (several of the opposite field variety), nine doubles, and two triples. Perhaps most impressively for someone so green, he's only struck out 23 times and drawn 12 free passes in 207 plate appearances.
That's wonderful plate discipline at any age, but it's obscene from a rookie who still can't rent a car.
Hopefully, Buster Posey can weather the pressure and grind of a playoff run because he's always been the key to San Francisco's future.
After the Giant's reemergence, the future appears to be now.
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