Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez
SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Giants' road to a World Series repeat appears to have taken a massive blow.
Lee County native Buster Posey, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year and catalyst to bringing the franchise its first World Series title since moving to the Bay Area from New York in 1958, could miss the rest of the season after suffering a bone fracture in his lower left leg in a home plate collision with Florida's Scott Cousins late Wednesday night during a 7-6, 12-inning loss to the Marlins.
The Giants confirmed the injury Thursday afternoon, adding they've placed Posey on the disabled list and that backup catcher Eli Whitside will be replacing him in the lineup.
Comcast SportsNet Bay Area was the first to report Thursday morning that sources say Posey's MRI revealed his left leg is broken and he's already in a cast. According to the report, the team was also waiting to hear if there was possible ligament damage in Posey's ankle suffered during the brutal collision in which Posey was on his knees awaiting the throw home, then was bent awkwardly backward when Cousins barreled into him
Shortly after that report, Posey's teammate, Pablo Sandoval, tweeted this: "Good morning I feel so bad because we lost buster for rest of the season it's gonna be hard with out him."
Later, Sandoval backed off those comments, tweeting this time: "Talking further within our team, I might have misspoken and hopefully Buster isn't out for the season."
Posey's agent, Jeff Berry, meanwhile, said he would be calling the MLB front offices --- specifically former legendary manager Joe Torre, who took over as MLB's director of on-field operations this season --- and ask that the league do something to start protecting catchers in hopes of avoiding future home-plate collisions.
"You leave players way too vulnerable," Berry told CBSsports.com. "I can tell you Major League Baseball is less than it was before (Posey's injury). It's stupid. I don't know if this ends up leading to a rule change, but it should. The guy (at the plate) is too exposed.
"If you go helmet to helmet in the NFL, it's a $100,000 fine, but in baseball, you have a situation in which runners are (slamming into) fielders. It's brutal. It's borderline shocking. It just stinks for baseball. I'm going to call Major League Baseball and put this on the radar. Because it's just wrong."
Posey has been San Francisco's best cleanup hitter this season, a team leader in the clubhouse and key cog behind the plate for one of the best rotations in baseball. He was batting .284 with four home runs and 21 RBI, just finding his groove in the midst of a 13-game hitting streak.
Posey laid in the dirt around home plate, dazed, writhing in pain land curling up in a ball. AT&T park fell silent, fans covering their mouths in disbelief.
In the blink of an eye Wednesday night, the road back to the World Series for the defending champion San Francisco Giants took a dramatic and painful twist.
Cousins scored the go-ahead run in a brutal collision with Posey at home plate in the 12th inning, injuring the Giants star catcher.
The Giants said there would be no test results released until today, when he'll have an MRI exam, although Posey appeared to be favoring his left leg as he was helped off the field. Television replays showed Posey's left ankle being bent backward in a painful-looking fashion as Cousin's collided with him at home, sending Posey flying.
Teammates were still coming to grips with the loss.
"It's huge. He's one of the leaders of the team already and what he brings every day is something you can't replace," Giants right fielder Nate Schierholtz.
All this came after the Giants rallied from four runs down in the ninth in one of the wildest nights of their young season.
The deciding play came when Emilio Bonifacio hit a shallow fly ball to right-center off Guillermo Mota (2-1) for the second out. Cousins tagged from third base on the sacrifice fly, beating the throw from Schierholtz and lowering his shoulder to slam into Posey for a clean -- albeit cringing -- hit on the reigning NL Rookie of the Year.
Cousins was safe as Posey never could quite corral the ball. Cousins, who went to the University San Francisco, lives in the Bay Area and had almost a dozen friends and family in attendance, said he felt sorry for injuring Posey but believed it was a clean baseball play.
"I felt like he was blocking the dish. It's the go-ahead run to win the game, I got to do whatever I can to score," Cousins said. "I'm not trying to end anybody's season or anything like that. I just was trying to play hard and score the go-ahead run. He didn't say much and you could tell he was in pain.
"And when their manager, when Bruce came out, he was pretty frustrated. I didn't want to make things any more tense."
After several minutes of being attending to at the plate, with fans finally chanting "Posey! Posey!" he was helped off the field by two team trainers holding his left leg and looking stunned.
"It's the toughest play in baseball. You hate to see it," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "As a catcher you know what it's like, and you don't like it. Believe me. When I see him laying there, it's certainly not a good feeling."
All this after the Giants batted around in the ninth to score four runs and force extra innings. Ryan Webb (1-3) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.
Marlins reliever Edward Mujica gave up a single to Schierholtz and a double to Miguel Tejada in the ninth. Leo Nunez entered with one out, and Schierholtz scored on a passed ball by catcher John Buck.
Pinch-hitter Pat Burrell had a bloop RBI single to center, trimming Florida's lead to 6-4. Nunez struck out Andres Torres before Freddy Sanchez doubled to put the tying runs in scoring position.
Aubrey Huff followed with a two-run single to make it 6-all, handing Nunez his first blown save in 19 chances. A good number of fans had left when Mike Stanton's bases-clearing double in the ninth gave the Marlins a four-run lead, and the ones who stayed received quite a show.
Stanton appeared to give Florida all the cushion it would need with a bases-loaded, two-out double to left-center off Javier Lopez to put the Marlins ahead 6-2. Those runs at least gave Florida another opportunity in extra innings after Nunez blew the save, spoiling a sharp outing by starter Chris Volstad.
But the night would belong to a play that could have serious implications for San Francisco's season.
Posey had already taken several foul tips off his mask and leg this season, and some observers have long argued a slugger of his caliber shouldn't be behind the plate -- where hits can be a routine. Posey had even talked about trying a more conventional mask next spring training instead of the hockey-style one he uses.
But the mask had nothing to do with this blow.
Cousins said he felt for Posey and repeatedly mentioned that he wasn't trying to injury him. He said he would find a way to send condolences to the other clubhouse and wish Posey well.
"It's a baseball play. I feel bad for Buster Posey, I really do," Cousins said. "I'm going to send a message over there to them."
NOTES: Marlins RHP Josh Johnson (right shoulder inflammation) threw for about 5 minutes on flat ground from 60 feet without any discomfort. Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said Johnson will long toss next and was still hopeful his ace could be return by June 1. ... Giants speedster Darren Ford has a sprained left ankle and will likely be out for at least five days. ... Marlins SS Hanley Ramirez was removed in the bottom of the ninth because of a right foot contusion. He is day to day. ... Tejada turned 37 on Wednesday. ... Giants SS Mike Fontenot left the game after he strained his left groin running to first on a groundout in the fourth. He is day to day.