Charlie Manuel

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.