PITTSBURGH -- It wasn't the lack of power that was so concerning to some longtime Giants employees, or that Buster Posey was swinging at an unusual number of pitches outside of the zone and hitting just about everything to the right side when he did make contact.
What was so jarring for some was the fact that Posey's smile seemed to be missing, which certainly was connected to the numbers on the scoreboard.
The game isn't very fun when you're batting .210 with no homers and two RBI, even if you're a face of the franchise, a former MVP who has accomplished just about everything you could ever want. It seemed to be weighing heavily on Posey.
That's what made the fifth inning so important on Sunday. Sure, the blast to dead center was nice, and needed for both Posey and the lineup. It provided all the offense in a 3-2 win over the Pirates. But as coaches and teammates watched Posey peel his equipment off and drop his bat off in the rack, they surely took just as much joy out of the smile that he couldn't wipe off his face.
When you hit your first homer since June: pic.twitter.com/uScPlkhHGg— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) April 21, 2019
"It obviously felt good," Posey said. "I've been trying to just stay positive and know that this is a process and come to the field every day with the attitude to keep on going and hopefully things are where my expectations are."
The blast was Posey's first in 237 at-bats, a career-long streak that extended back to last June 19 and included struggles on both sides of serious hip surgery. With two on and one out in the fifth, and the Giants trailing by a pair, Posey got a 93 mph fastball down the middle of the plate from Chris Archer.
He did what a middle-of-the-order hitter is supposed to do with that pitch, lining it to dead center, where it landed just over the wall 409 feet away. At 107 mph, the ball was Posey's hardest-hit homer in three years.
Buster 💣💣💣 pic.twitter.com/Wo6qGvROAY— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 21, 2019
"He couldn't have picked a better time to hit his first one. We needed it," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I'm sure, even for Buster, that some weight is off his shoulders. I really thought he took some really good swings today, was really aggressive, with a double and a home run."
Bochy has been firmly in Posey's corner throughout the slowest start of his career. Asked repeatedly about the slump in recent weeks, he stuck with the same answer: "He'll come around."
"They're trying," Bochy said Sunday. "I know there's a lot of attention on our offense and our struggles, especially early in games. But they have a lot of pride. I know that was huge for him."
Posey tried to downplay the significance, saying it just felt good to contribute to a win. But the homer didn't just give the Giants a happy flight to Toronto, it crossed another team off Posey's checklist. He had 58 previous hits against the Pirates but none that cleared the fence. He now has a homer against every other National League team.