3 Things the Giants Have to Fix on Road Trip to Stay in First Place
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The trip will mark the last time the Giants head to the East Coast this year, at least in the regular season. With Atlanta currently leading the wild-card race and 2.5 games back in the NL East, the matchup could be a preview of a postseason series in October.
With some glaring issues that are often magnified on the road, the Giants will need to prove they can overcome these deficiencies if they are going to win the NL West.
The Giants' Big Three need to pitch better on the road.
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The way the Giants are built, their starters have to pitch exceptionally well if they’re going to win ballgames. San Francisco is 25th in the majors in runs scored (349), and dead last in home runs (52). They are not a team that can typically overcome three and four-run deficits.
The ability for the Giants' starters to give their team a quality start (starting pitcher completes six innings while surrendering three earned runs or less), is imperative for their success.
Over the past 10 games at home, the Giants' starters have given their team an outstanding nine quality starts, going 8-2 during that stretch.
On their aforementioned road trip to Washington and Pittsburgh, the Giants only received two quality starts, one of the main reasons they went 1-5 during that span. Three starts resulted in six or more runs, with Tim Lincecum being responsible for two of them.
While much has been made about Lincecum’s unbelievably awful 9.00 ERA on the road, the entire Giants pitching staff has not been great away from San Francisco. With a league-leading 2.31 ERA at home, the Giants' 4.85 ERA on the road currently ranks 28th overall.
It’s no surprise the staff ERA is higher outside of the pitcher-friendly confines of AT&T Park, but it’s hard to believe it’s over two-and-a-half points higher.
Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey need to up their home run production.
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As much as the pitchers enjoy their advantages at home, it also handicaps the offense—especially when it comes to the long ball.
Part of the reason why the Giants have hit the least amount of home runs in the majors is due to their minuscule total of 15 home runs at home this season. In comparison, there are 10 teams with 50 or more round trippers at home, including two in their own division.
The good news is they also give up the fewest amount of home runs at home (26), and the parity in power allows them to win a lot of close games at AT&T Park.
The problem rears its ugly head when the Giants visit opponents who play in a hitter-friendly park. While Giants pitchers have surrendered the fewest amount of long balls at home, they’ve coughed up 48 of them on the road—18th worst in the majors—and the offense doesn’t keep pace.
As expected, the Giants have hit more homers on the road, but their total of 37 is still 25th overall.
The heart of their order, Melky Cabrera, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Angel Pagan and Brandon Belt have to step it up and drive the ball out of the ballpark with more regularity if the Giants are going to consistently win games on the road.
If You Can't Take the Heat
The Giants experienced triple digit heat on their last road trip.
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Much was made about the sweltering heat that surrounded the Giants on their last road trip. As if the Giants were experiencing heat for the first time in their lives, they were blindsided and outmatched before the game even started.
Pitchers jerseys were soaked with sweat by the end of the first inning, baseball caps had salty rings around the side and on-field mental lapses were blamed on the heat exhaustion.
After the 1-5 meltdown, what really came out of the trip was one of two things: the Giants were either not in shape or lacking in mental toughness.
By most accounts, including Mike Krukow, it takes a day or two to acclimate to the heat. That didn’t happen in Washington, and the Giants are out to prove this trip will be different.
After Sunday’s win over Houston, Buster Posey was asked about the heat on the last road trip and how the team will deal with it this time. Posey responded with some candid comments.
“It was hot. It was hot, but you try your best and play and not let it affect you. It’s different, I think it was even hot for the Nationals and the Pirates. I think we just got a really hot week,” he said.
“There’s no excuses, no matter what the weather conditions are. We have to get the job done and hopefully we can be better prepared on this next trip,” Posey said.
Duane Kuiper echoed the sentiments on KNBR’s Murph and Mac show on Tuesday morning.
“I don’t think at any point is the weather going to be an issue at all. It’s not overbearingly hot today and I don’t think it’s going to be tonight, so I think the weather issue is a dead issue.”
Kuiper finished with strong words for the team.
“I hope the players don’t bring it up, because nobody wants to hear it anymore.”
(Duane Kuiper Quote—http://knbr.com/ShowsSchedule/MurphandMac/tabid/584/Default.aspx. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained first-hand.)