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With playoff spot clinched, talk of MVP, batting title heat up for Giants’ Posey

Leesburg native and San Francisco Giants superstar Buster Posey is on the verge of becoming the third catcher since 1900 to win the NL batting title. Posey (.333) officially took the lead Thursday.

Leesburg native and San Francisco Giants superstar Buster Posey is on the verge of becoming the third catcher since 1900 to win the NL batting title. Posey (.333) officially took the lead Thursday.

SAN FRANCISCO — Buster Posey is on the verge of becoming the third catcher since 1900 to win the National League batting title.

The Leesburg native and San Francisco Giants catcher surged to the lead in the batting title race Thursday with a pair of hits against the Arizona Diamondbacks, passing Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen, who bruised his knee and was 0-for-4 at the plate in a 6-5 loss to the New York Mets.

Posey began Thursday a percentage point behind McCutchen, but by the end of the day Posey was on top with a .333 average, and McCutchen slipped to .332 with less than a week remaining in the regular season.

A catcher has won the NL batting title just three other times in baseball’s modern era: Bubbles Hargrave (Cincinnati, 1926) and Ernie Lombardi (Cincinnati, 1938 and Boston, 1942).

“It’s really, really difficult (for a catcher to win the batting title),” Giants manager Bruce Bochy told MLB.com. “You get beat up pretty good in the games.”

Entering last weekend’s series against the Padres, Posey — whose Giants have already clinched a playoff spot — was hitting .335, compared to McCutchen’s .339 average, and the former Lee County star told MLB.com last Friday that he wasn’t focusing on catching McCutchen.

“Personal achievements and accomplishments are always nice,” he said. “But being fortunate enough to win the World Series in 2010, knowing how much fun that was and being able to share it with the guys on the team and the whole city — ultimately, I know that’s why I play the game, because that’s where I get the most satisfaction.”

Posey, 25, is also a leading candidate to win the NL MVP award and would join Johnny Bench and Thurman Munson as the only catchers to win the Rookie of the Year Award, MVP and World Series title in their careers.

“To me he is (the MVP),” Bochy told csnbayarea.com before Wednesday’s game against the Diamondbacks, who the Giants beat, 7-3. “We’re not in this situation without Buster. That’s how valuable he is to us with the year he’s had and being a catcher and handling the staff and hitting cleanup and all that’s thrown at him. That’s not being disrespectful to the other guys, but he’s my guy. Sure, that’s how I feel.”

The severity of McCutchen’s knee injury is unknown, but with the Pirates eliminated from playoff contention, it could possibly keep Pittsburgh’s top player on the bench for the rest of the season.

“We will re-evaluate (today) when we get back,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said after the game.

Posey, however, is playing some of his best ball of the year for a Giants team that has clinched an NL West title and is 8-2 in its last 10 games.

Posey, who missed most of his sophomore season with a leg and ankle injury, had his 100th RBI of the season Wednesday, becoming the first Giant to do so since Barry Bonds in 2004. He told reporters that he credits his RBI total to his teammates’ high on-base percentages (Melky Cabrera .396, Marco Scutaro .386, Angel Pagan .341 and Pablo Sandoval .343)

“I think an accomplishment like that can’t be done without your teammates, their speed, moving runners along,” Posey said. “It has a lot to do with guys getting on base and doing the right things.”

Last Friday, Posey was also awarded the Willie Mac Award, which is given to the most inspirational Giants player and is voted on by players, coaches, trainers and fans.

As legendary Giants first baseman Willie McCovey, who the award is named after, was presenting it to Posey, he revealed who he voted for.

“I get a vote every year,” McCovey said. “I don’t usually reveal who I voted for, but I wanted everyone to know I voted for this guy.”

Former All-Star Shawon Dunston also said it was a “no-brainer” to vote for Posey.

“What he went through (having to come back from injury)? We knew he was going to win this,” Dunston told The San Francisco Chronicle. “I hope he gets the big award. I hope he wins MVP. I hope he wins Comeback Player of the Year.

“Tell him to win them all ... well-deserved and a good young man.”

Posey later told The Chronicle that he hoped his leadership qualities helped him win the award.

“I’m somebody the guys can look at and say, ‘He goes about things the right way.’ I’m ready to play, and hopefully I’m a guy people can come up to and bounce stuff off of — really, be the best teammate I can be,” Posey said.