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And a rookie shall lead them: Buster Posey carries Giants to brink of World Series

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Juan Uribe surprisingly didn’t put up much of a fight in the bottom of the ninth inning when home plate umpire Wally Bell ruled that the 1-1 pitch from Roy Oswalt hit his bat handle and not his hand.

Instead of taking his base Uribe just waited a couple pitches and hit the game-winning sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Aubrey Huff from third base and putting the Giants one win away from the World Series.

Uribe delivered the walk-off blow and also made an excellent defensive play despite being in the game for all of one inning after coming in as part of a double-switch, but it was 23-year-old rookie catcher Buster Posey who carried the Giants all night.

Posey put the Giants up 1-0 with an RBI single in the first inning, made it a 2-0 lead with an RBI double in the third, doubled again in the seventh, and advanced Huff to third base with an opposite-field single off Oswalt in front of Uribe’s game-winning fly ball. Oh, and he also made a great defensive play to cut down Carlos Ruiz at the plate in the fifth inning, picking up a short-hop throw from center fielder Aaron Rowand and hanging on in a catcher-on-catcher collision.

Not a bad night for a kid who was at Triple-A until May 29.

Posey went 4-for-5 overall, becoming just the 13th player in baseball history to have a four-hit game in the playoffs at age 23 or younger. And it’s a helluva list: Miguel Cabrera, Derek Jeter, Manny Ramirez, Lenny Dykstra, Joe Garagiola, Hank Greenberg, Joe Medwick, Freddie Lindstrom, Goose Goslin, Frankie Frisch, Donie Bush, Ty Cobb.

Lost in Posey’s historic heroics is that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel made several questionable bullpen moves, including using Game 2 starter Roy Oswalt to pitch the ninth inning in relief on two days’ rest rather than turn to closer Brad Lidge. No doubt Manuel was holding Lidge back for a so-called save situation, but as so often happens when managers make tactical decisions based on the accumulation of that statistic there was ultimately never a lead for Lidge to close out.

If the Phillies are going to turn the NLCS around and get to a third straight World Series they’ll need Oswalt to come up big Saturday in Game 6, but first we’re in for an epic Game 1 rematch between reigning back-to-back Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and his likely successor Roy Halladay. San Francisco is one victory from the World Series, but if any team can stave off elimination for three straight games it’s the back-to-back National League champs with The Big Three of Halladay, Oswalt, and Cole Hamels.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.