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Webb's playoff debut brings back memories of past Giants aces

NBC Sports
Logan Webb

SAN FRANCISCO -- The scene was a familiar one. Buster Posey, sitting behind a podium after a postseason win, the starting pitcher by his side. He mostly wore a flat expression, but he smiled as he was asked about his starting pitcher. When the pitcher talked about his dominant performance, Posey at times looked over like a proud father. 

Posey was here in 2010 with Tim Lincecum. Later, it was Madison Bumgarner sitting next to him, the two dispatching one opponent after the next as they chased rings. It has been a while since Posey has been behind that podium, but when he sat down with young Logan Webb 45 minutes after a 4-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, Posey gave about the highest praise possible for a Giants pitcher.

"I actually thought it felt a little bit like Lincecum's against the Braves in 2010," Posey said of Webb's performance. 

That Lincecum start in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS is the gold standard. Lincecum struck out 14 Braves that night, allowing two hits while spinning a shutout. It is one of the best pitching performances in MLB history, but Posey -- not one who is prone to hyperbole -- didn't hesitate to say he thought Webb neared those heights in his own postseason debut. 

Webb pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings against the reigning World Series champions, striking out 10 and getting 11 more outs on the ground. He was removed after 92 pitches, 21 of which were swung at and missed by Dodgers hitters. Gabe Kapler turned the game over to the bullpen, but later, Posey said he thought Webb had the potential to match Lincecum's shutout had he been allowed to chase it. 

 

"It was a great performance," Posey said. "I think what's impressive to me is him being able to control the extra energy and nerves, not only in this game, but the last game of the season. He has really taken it up a notch."

Webb said he did fight some nerves at first, but he stranded a runner on third in the first inning by reaching his leg out and stopping Justin Turner's would-be RBI single up the middle. Posey made sure that Webb had a lead the next time he went out. 

Posey's two-run blast off Walker Buehler gave Webb all he would need, and it allowed the young pitcher to start to cement his place among the game's best big-game pitchers. Buehler has been as good as anyone in October the last few years, but as he walked off the mound with one out in the seventh, there was Webb, standing in the on-deck circle, preparing to hit for himself because was in such control on the mound that Kapler couldn't dare think of using a pinch-hitter. 

"He seems to be grabbing momentum from the previous start to kind of propel him in the next one," Kapler said. "I think in this particular case, it was a combination of that momentum but also confidence and clearly stuff ... It was kind of the talent part coming through, the movement on the sinker. And we saw that, and I think the evidence of that was some of the swings that the Dodgers' hitters were forced to take."

Those swings were ugly in part because Webb hit the Dodgers with a mix they couldn't have seen coming. He has dominated opponents since May with a hard, diving sinker and a nasty slider, but on Friday he threw a season-high 38 changeups, getting 27 strikes and 12 swings-and-misses. Four of Webb's strikeouts came on the changeup, but he also got five with his slider. His fastball hit 95 mph and helped him get ahead in counts.

"He's got three pitches that are elite," Posey said. "It's definitely a luxury on my end to kind of pick and choose depending upon the game and the lineup that we have and the action that I'm seeing on his pitches. Sometimes it's going to be more of an even mix and today we saw the changeup was used more. But he's got the ability to get guys out in a lot of different ways, and it's a recipe for success."

Webb is getting better and better with every start, delighting a veteran clubhouse that needed someone to step up and take the reins for the rotation in October. Posey watched Lincecum and Bumgarner do it, and he sees the same talent and traits in Webb. 

 

The two led the way Friday night, and as their session with reporters was wrapping up, Posey looked ready to start preparing for the next game. His face perked up when Webb was asked what makes Posey such a good teammate and person. Posey flashed a mischievous smile and turned to Webb.

"You better have a good answer," he said. 

RELATED: Amazing stats from Webb's historic performance in Game 1

Webb talked of what Posey has meant to him off the field and said he wasn't sure how many times he even shook off a sign in Game 1. He said Posey has given him the confidence to throw his best pitches in big spots. It all seemed extremely familiar.

"I'm very lucky," Webb said. "For sure."

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