WASHINGTON D.C. -- Nolan Arenado came to Oracle Park last week with no home runs, and as surprising as that was, it was even more shocking when he went the first three games of the series without doing his usual damage against Giants pitching. But Arenado hit a homer on Sunday, and then promptly went deep Monday and Tuesday in San Diego. All he needed was one to open the floodgates.
That's not exactly the kind of breakthrough Buster Posey is picturing. Asked about players like Arenado, Posey smiled.
"I'd love to hit three in a row," he said.
Posey would settle for one isolated blast at this point. He hasn't taken a long trot around the bases since last June 19, when he took Dan Straily deep. That's 62 appearances, including 17 this season that have come with a repaired hip. The streak of 229 at-bats without a homer is the longest of Posey's career and fourth-longest among non-pitchers currently.
Manager Bruce Bochy has remained patient, keeping Posey in the heart of the lineup. Bochy doesn't exactly have a bunch of options for that spot, anyway, but this goes deeper. The only manager Posey has ever known believes he will find his old form, or at least most of it.
"It's only going to get better with him," Bochy said.
Posey has tried to keep that mindset, although he admitted you can be challenged mentally when you look up at a scoreboard in the second half of April and see zero homers and just one RBI.
"You feel a responsibility to your team to drive in runs when you're hitting in that part of the lineup," said Posey, who is batting .196. "At the same time, what's past is past. I know from experience that if you harp on that stuff there's nothing positive that can come from that."
It has for most of April been a struggle to find signs that what's ahead will be more positive. Posey is swinging at pitches outside the strike zone at the highest rate of his career, and his contact rate is the lowest of his career. That has led to a strikeout rate (19 percent) that's seven points above his career average. Posey has pulled just 23.3 percent of the balls he has put in play this season, the lowest rate in the Majors, according to Inside-Edge.
Perhaps all of this is in part because of a change in the way pitchers are approaching the former MVP. It's still a small sample, but Posey is seeing fastballs just 58 percent of the time, which also is the lowest rate of his career. Only three of his hits have come off non-fastballs.
The Giants are aware of the numbers, but they prefer to focus on the moments when it all clicks. Against the Padres last week, Posey hit two balls at 107 mph in one game. On Wednesday night, he smacked a double off the center field wall in the ninth inning. Those moments have been too spread out, though.
"I'll feel it for a few games and then I'll kind of lose it," Posey said. "I think it's just a matter of staying positive and understanding that it's a process."
Posey said he's trying to stay even-keel, and he's not thinking about ending the home run drought. "When you force things you get a little big and you lose some of that quickness," he said of his swing. From a physical standpoint, he believes he's pretty close to back to normal.
That's the other factor Bochy is leaning on. Posey is not far removed from major hip surgery, and he has been his old self defensively. Even if the bat isn't there, that has allowed Bochy to comfortably keep his star in the lineup, leading a pitching staff that's carried the team. Posey was off Thursday -- a day game after a night game -- but could play all three games in Pittsburgh this weekend. Bochy said he hasn't needed to sit Posey with a "cranky" hip this season.
"We're getting close to how we normally would work him," Bochy said. "He's bouncing back from these games and is feeling pretty good."