SF Giants running out of time to solve road woes, salvage playoff hopes

There is an easy explanation for the Giants’ 5-23 record over their past 28 road games, a stretch that could cost them a playoff spot

PHOENIX (AP) — There’s an old adage that is frequently used in sports. Win half of your road games and take care of business at home, and you’ll have a playoff team.

Half of that equation has been met by the San Francisco Giants.

They are 43-32 at Oracle Park but only 33-42 away from McCovey Cove, and after losing three of four at Coors Field over the weekend, they have only won five of their previous 28 road games, a.179 winning percentage. No team has been worse away from home since almost the All-Star break, a stretch of futility made even more perplexing given their 17-10 record at home during the same time.

“I saw that stat,” outfielder Austin Slater admitted, “and I started laughing a little bit.” I thought how close we were and how bad we’d been on the road was encouraging. I believe in the averages rule. If we’ve been that bad lately, it’ll inevitably swing back our way at some point. Because that is not our type of team. We’re far superior to that.”

They are still within striking distance with 12 games remaining. However, there is only so much time to change course.

A strong finish to their final six road games, beginning Tuesday with two in Arizona against a team 212 games ahead in the wild card standings, could put it all to rest. However, if they fail to make up that ground, it will be as easy to point to their second-half road struggles as it will be to their missed opportunities against the worst teams in the majors (37-34 vs. clubs below.500) or with their ace, Logan Webb, on the mound (14-17 in his starts as of Tuesday).

“Isn’t it simple? “We’re just not playing well enough on the road,” manager Gabe Kapler said after his team was swept in Colorado. “I don’t believe there is a single thing to point to.” It’s a collaborative effort. We’re not playing well as a team.”

Looking at the numbers, the Giants appear to be a different team away from their pitcher-friendly home park.

Since the end of June, the offense has been sluggish, but this has been consistent across parks. In most statistical categories, they’ve been among the worst in the majors, regardless of venue.

They’ve survived at home thanks to some of the best pitching in the majors. On the road, that same group of pitchers has been among the league’s least effective.

“It’s been largely the same people, the same teams,” said reliever John Brebbia, who has a 2.45 ERA at home this year compared to 4.11 on the road and was as perplexed as anyone else. “As much as I enjoy pitching at Oracle, I don’t feel any different on the road than I do at home.” Maybe some people do, but I haven’t heard anything like that.”

Since the All-Star break, Giants pitchers have posted a 3.02 ERA in 27 home games, the second-best mark in the majors. They are in the top six in the league in FIP (3.30, second), home run prevention (0.8 per nine innings, first), limiting walks (5.5% rate, first), and batting average against (.228, sixth).

Their pitchers have a 5.58 ERA in 28 games away from home, which ranks third in the majors. They allow home runs at nearly double the rate (1.5 per nine, 23rd) and opponents’ batting average is more than 60 points higher (.291, 29th).

Simply put, the Giants have been worse at turning batted balls into outs away from home. On the road, opponents have hit.333 on balls in play compared to.276 at home.

“For whatever reason, we haven’t been scoring a lot of runs on the road.” “Our pitching has been better than our offense, but I believe we’ve been giving up extra outs,” Slater said. “That’s been really hurting us. Just not really executing the game’s minor details. That’s something I’ve noticed in the last few months. For whatever reason, it appears to be highlighted on the road.”

Both of their top starters have expressed a preference for pitching at Oracle Park, and the numbers reflect that sentiment.

Alex Cobb is 5-2 with a 1.92 ERA in 12 home starts this season, compared to 2-4 with a 5.26 ERA in 15 road starts. Webb has a similar lopsided split: 6-6 with a 2.37 ERA in 15 home starts and 4-6 with a 4.30 ERA in 16 road starts.

“I really enjoy pitching there,” Cobb said earlier this season. “I’ve always enjoyed pitching at my home ballpark, wherever that may be.” You simply have a better morning routine. You’re sound asleep in your bed. You’ve decided where you’ll eat. When you arrive on the field. Things are simply easier. Because you’re used to throwing there, you always have that mental outlook or visual of what you’re going to get into on the mound.”

“For me, I have family and friends (at Oracle Park) all the time,” Webb explained. Perhaps this has something to do with it. It’s one of the more pitcher-friendly parks, in my opinion. When you involve the audience, you get an extra boost. I couldn’t tell you why that happens. To be honest, I wish I had pitched better on the road.”

But isn’t this the same team that won 10 straight games in June, six of which came on an undefeated road trip through St. Louis and Dodger Stadium? A roster that is mostly the same as the one that started the second half with five straight wins in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati?

The Giants had the third-best road record in the majors, at 28-19, until their current stretch began on July 19, with a 3-2 loss in the third of four games against the Reds. They finished 54-41 overall, taking the top wild card spot. If current trends continue, they will have an early offseason.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s on the road or at home,” said Slater. “We just have to start playing better basketball.”

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