Experienced Posey unfazed by postseason pressure

Giants star looking forward to challenge of intense, winner-take-all Wild Card Game

Experienced Posey unfazed by postseason pressure

PITTSBURGH -- When the stakes and pressure rise, athletes frequently remind themselves that they're playing the same carefree game they did as youths. For Giants catcher Buster Posey and a couple of his Pittsburgh Pirates opponents, Wednesday night's National League Wild Card Game at PNC Park (5 p.m. PT on ESPN) truly will recall bygone days.

Bygone days, maybe, but not simpler ones. This showdown's intensity, which is essentially a Game 7 that will advance the winner to the NL Division Series against Washington and send the loser to the offseason, promises to be extreme.

For emphasis, this NL Wild Card Game will pit the last two NL Most Valuable Player Award winners against each other -- Posey, the award's winner in 2012, and McCutchen, the '13 recipient. That hasn't happened since 1992, when Pittsburgh's Barry Bonds (1990) and Atlanta's Terry Pendleton ('91) collided in the NL Championship Series.

Precedents also are scarce for something else Posey and McCutchen are experiencing, as well as Pirates first baseman Ike Davis. They joined forces on a U.S. junior national team that participated in an international tournament in Taiwan in the autumn of 2004. Posey said Tuesday that Atlanta outfielder Justin Upton also was on the U.S. team -- which didn't win the tourney.

  Date   Result Highlights
  Oct. 1   SF 8, PIT 0 video

"It's definitely kind of fun to look back on," said Posey, who revealed that he performed in that event as a starting pitcher, not a catcher.

Posey also would welcome revisiting 2010 and '12, when the Giants made their previous two postseason appearances and won the World Series.

"As a competitor, you look forward to this type of challenge," Posey said, displaying relish for the Wild Card Game's win-or-else format. "This is a different scenario than we've ever been in."

Posey signaled during last Sunday's regular-season finale that he's primed for October. After resting a stiff back Friday and Saturday, he returned to the lineup and homered off San Diego's Robbie Erlin on the first pitch he saw.

"It's good to see Buster taking swings like that," San Francisco left fielder/first baseman Travis Ishikawa said. "It's only going to help us."

"It's a great way to get a good feel going into the playoffs," Giants right fielder Hunter Pence said.

Posey hit .393 in September to finish the season with a .311 batting average, fourth in the league. He also ranked among the league leaders in RBIs (89) and slugging percentage (.490). Posey hit .354 with 12 homers and 43 RBIs after this year's All-Star break, compared with .244, two homers and 16 RBIs in last season's second half.

It would be nothing new for Posey to sustain his productive hitting through the next few weeks, if San Francisco survives that far. He hit .375 (6-for-16) in his first postseason experience, the 2010 NLDS against Atlanta. Posey became the second rookie catcher to amass four hits in a postseason contest in Game 4 of that year's NLCS against Philadelphia, and he hit safely in all five games of the World Series against Texas.

Posey's grand slam off Cincinnati's Mat Latos in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS remains a favorite moment among Giants fans. Later that postseason, he delivered a key two-run homer in San Francisco's World Series-clinching Game 4 victory at Detroit.

Pittsburgh catcher Russell Martin acknowledged Posey's potentionally formidable presence, but he didn't sound intimidated.

"He's just like anybody else. Even the best hitters get out seven out of 10 times," Martin said. "Hopefully some of those seven times will be tomorrow."

When Wednesday arrives, Posey will retain his calm nature.

"I think there are going to be nerves for everybody," he said. "But from my experience, once you get to the clubhouse, start your routine and step on the field, everything gets back to normal."

Exactly as if he were playing a kids' game.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.