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Learn From a 23-Year Old? The Phillies Can

It was hard not to notice the kid with the mask on. He’s outstanding behind the plate, calling a very good game for another youngster standing just about 60 feet from him. Next to it, he’d been struggling before Game 4, but broke out of that shell in a big way.

Buster Posey is youthful and poised – he looks about 18 – yet seems to have it all figured out already. With just 108 regular season games under his belt, and now eight more in the postseason, Posey hasn’t even reach a full year. That’s not stopping him from looking the part of all-star backstop.

Through those eight games, Posey is hitting .344 with an OPS of .838. In each of his first six games, he found a way to reach base – the first five with a hit, the sixth Posey went 0-for-3 with a walk. But in that eighth game, the one where the Giants took a 3-1 advantage, nearly choking out any hope the Phillies had of advancing to a third consecutive World Series, Posey had his coming out party.

The 23-year old went 4-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI in the 6-5 walk-off win. Numbers are nice, but it was something else that caught my eye that even the Phillies can learn from.

After the Game 3 loss, Chase Utley and others were examining footage of themselves in the clubhouse following the 3-0 loss; one in which they were completely shut down by Matt Cain. Maybe now they should be looking at tape of Posey’s ninth inning at-bat against Roy Oswalt, a former all-star and NLCS MVP.

In the at-bat, Oswalt challenged Posey immediately with a 94 mph fastball down the middle. He missed, then fouled off three straight pitches all of similar velocity. A rookie move would be to continue to look fastball, but we’ve established that Posey doesn’t think like one. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Posey looked at a changeup that just missed the outside corner, setting up a 1-2 count, still in Oswalt’s favor.

Oswalt then threw a decent slider that caught the outer edge of the plate, which Posey deposited into right field. Only a great sliding stop by Jayson Werth kept it from being the winning RBI hit, but what was so impressive was the way Posey handled himself at the dish.

Go back one inning. The Phillies had Jayson Werth on second base following his RBI double scoring Ryan Howard. Jimmy Rollins, Ben Francisco, and Carlos Ruiz each came up to bat and each failed. Each tried their best to pull the ball into the corner, which was the mistake.

We can over-analyze all day what Charlie Manuel should have had Rollins do in that first at-bat following Werth’s double. The correct move may have been a bunt to push Werth 90 feet, but Manuel has too much confidence in the bat of Rollins. Either way, J-Roll had a chance to make his mark and did not. He was given two straight fastballs on the outer edge. It ended in a pop up.

With one out, Ben Francisco, a fastball-fiend, stepped to the plate against the righty Sergio Romo. Ben Fran tried to pull the ball as he normally does and was undone by three straight sliders from Romo, quickly sitting down. Carlos Ruiz lasted just three pitches as well, two swings and misses and one called strike in between.

Both guys pulled off each slider with more force than the one before.

Buster Posey simply took what was given to him and sent the final pitch he saw from Oswalt into right field. An opposite field hit, a novel concept. It’s a fundamental trait often overlooked, and last night, was so by the Phillies. Posey’s base knock set up a game-winning sac fly by Juan Uribe.

Three straight fundamental breakdowns by Rollins, Francisco, and Ruiz left the Phillies wanting more and staring at a deficit they’ve rarely seen over the past few seasons. Were they the only mistakes of the night? Absolutely not. However, Posey’s poise at the dish made these errors in hitting stand out even more.

That was Mr. Posey’s lesson for the day. Will the Phillies pass the test tonight?

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