MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Posey, Pence are playoff X-factors for Giants

Posey, Pence are playoff X-factors for Giants

NEW YORK -- Catcher Buster Posey and right fielder Hunter Pence are the X-factors for the Giants as they head into the postseason for the fourth time in the past seven years.

It's been an every-other-year thing for the Giants, who won the World Series in 2010, '12 and '14, while missing the playoffs in the odd numbered years.

Posey is the only position player to have played on all three championship teams. Pence joined the Giants in a non-waiver Trade Deadline deal with the Phillies in '12 and had a heavy impact on the latter two World Series wins.

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"There's never any one guy who has the burden to carry the offense," Pence said before the Giants' workout on Tuesday at Citi Field in preparation for Wednesday night's National League Wild Card Game against the Mets (5 p.m. PT on ESPN). "We go out there and say, 'Hey, everyone. Just stay within yourself, play your game and trust the strengths of the group.'"

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Still, the group has to have leaders and what Posey and Pence produce on the field is, of course, important. But what they do off the field is also an essential element to the Giants' success. Posey is just a .245 hitter with a .644 OPS in 48 postseason games. Pence is a similar .265 hitter with a .679 OPS in 38 postseason games, although he was a huge offensive factor two years ago when the Giants won the World Series against the Royals, batting .444 with a 1.167 OPS in the seven games.

Posey's work with the pitchers in setting game plans and handling them during games is just as significant as what he does with the bat. Pence is the clubhouse leader, interacting with each player and leading meetings and chants.

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Posey and left-hander Madison Bumgarner both came up from the Minors to stay in June 2010, and the duo have been together ever since.

"You know, he's just one of those guys who has that 'it' factor that you can see it there," Posey said about Bumgarner, who will start against hard-throwing Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard on Wednesday.

Bumgarner is the only pitcher who started for the Giants on those three World Series winners, pitching in every one of his 14 postseason starts to Posey.

"Buster is the rock of our team," Bumgarner said. "I mean, you see what happened to us when Buster went down in 2011. There's just a comfort level getting to throw to him. We work together all the time. He's always behind the plate. And that's the biggest deal to me. Not just how much he means to us on the field, but just how well we know each other and he can read me, I can read him. It works out good together.

"Hunter? Yeah, Hunter. We all know about Hunter and what he does for this ballclub."

Everyone wonders why the Giants win only in the even-numbered years, but to Bumgarner's point, there are mitigating circumstances.

Posey was knocked out for the season on May 25, 2011, in a play at the plate, with a fractured left ankle and torn ligaments. The Giants won 86 games, but finished eight games behind Arizona in the NL West.

Pence missed 110 games in 2015 with a fractured left wrist, tendinitis in the same wrist and a strained left oblique. The Giants were only two games behind the Dodgers on Aug. 20, when Pence sustained the oblique injury. He missed the remainder of the season and again the Giants finished eight games out.

A lot of San Francisco's second-half problems this season can be attributed to the fact that Pence missed 48 games with a torn right hamstring and didn't get going at the plate until September.

Now, Posey and Pence are healthy and poised to help the Giants through another winning postseason.

"Well, I think anytime you look at the heart of the order, those are the guys you count on," said manager Bruce Bochy, who guided the Giants to all three World Series titles. "Those are the guys during the season you depend on.

"And in the postseason with their experience, their ability, their talent -- we're going to see good pitching here -- it's those guys that hopefully find a way to get the job done for you."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.