Is it possible to decline home-field advantage in the postseason?
The suggestion is absurd, of course, but playing at AT&T Park sure isn’t giving the Giants any sort of competitive edge right now. In fact, the Orange and Black actually seem more at home these days when they’re knocking the ball around their opponents’ ballparks. The Giants are now 0-3 at home in the 2012 postseason after Sunday’s 6-4 loss against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
The team’s incredible turnaround in Cincinnati last week overshadowed what should be cause for concern — a dismal performance at home in the NL Division Series’ first two games.
The Giants were outscored 14-2 and outhit 22-9 in two games at AT&T Park last weekend. It’s unwise to make too much out of any two games in baseball, but the trend is alarming because the Giants’ home woes precede the postseason.
If you exclude the last homestand (10 games against the Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks), the Giants’ record was only 9-15 at AT&T Park after July 24. They were 19-6 on the road during the same stretch.
In fact, the second half of the season was very similar to what we witnessed last week. The Giants were lethargic at home, but always seemed to get hot once they hit the road.
Think back to the lowest point of the second half. The Los Angeles Dodgers swept the Giants during the last weekend in July and then San Francisco dropped three of four games against the New York Mets. But then, the Giants went on the road and outscored the Rockies and Cardinals 57-26, winning five of seven games.
After that, the Giants returned home to split six games with the Rockies and the Washington Nationals before winning five of six games in Southern California against the Padres and Dodgers. The same pattern unfolded the next two times the Giants returned to China Basin.
The glaring difference is the team’s offensive production at home vs. on the road this year. The Giants scored an average of 3.8 runs per game at home (24th in the majors), but crossed the plate 5.06 times per game in opponents’ ballparks (second). The team hit the fewest number of home runs (31) at home this year since they moved into AT&T Park 12 years ago.
While this home-road anomaly is baffling, the blame can’t fall solely on the bats. A key reason why the Giants are playing mediocre ball in front of the home fans right now is the lack of consistency in the starting rotation.
In 2010, the Giants mowed through the postseason with filthy starting pitching across the board. The rotation produced 11 quality starts in 15 games. Right now, they have a grand total of zero.
If the arms were on, the Giants would have won Game 1 against the Reds on Oct. 6 and the four runs they scored Sunday would have certainly been enough to grab a 1-0 lead in the NLCS.
The assignment only gets tougher tonight when Chris Carpenter, who boasts a career 10-2 postseason record, takes the hill for the Red Birds.
Ryan Vogelsong might need to win a pitcher’s duel to keep this series competitive or maybe the team just needs to hit the road, again.
Paul Gackle is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @PGackle.