West brings out best in Pirates' bats
SAN FRANCISCO — The West Coast is typically not where clubs find their offensive rhythm.
The large dimensions of the parks, coupled with the heavy, marine layer air of the coast, often create run-depressing environments.
AT&T Park in San Francisco and Petco Park in San Diego are the two most difficult ballparks to score runs in this season according to ESPN's Park Factors, which compares the rate of statistics at the home park to the rate on the road.
But in the first four games of their West Coast swing through San Diego and San Francisco, the Pirates produced 22 runs, including a 10-5 win over the Giants on Thursday when they roughed up Matt Cain.
It marks their best four-game output since scoring 30 runs in a four-game stretch in late June (21-25) also along the West Coast, at the Angels and Mariners.
So what is it about the worst offensive environments in baseball that are bringing the best out of the Pirates' lineup?
Manager Clint Hurdle said his club is better using the whole field, perhaps an approach taken more seriously — consciously or subconsciously — in places where it's difficult to hit a home run.
“It's something we've been working on,” Hurdle said of an all-fields approach. “Offensively, all our hits have been to the big part of the field.”
It's an approach the club has tried to have third baseman Pedro Alvarez buy into throughout his career. Alvarez has been particularly effective at lining drives into the gaps on the trip.
He tripled and enjoyed a Little League-style homer — a single and three-base error — in San Diego, and he hit two ground-rule doubles Thursday in San Francisco.
The second double scored two runs in the Pirates' seven-run fifth, tying their best inning of the season. With the shot that one-bounced over the right-center field wall at AT&T Park, Alvarez tied a career high with 85 RBI — with 35 games to play in the season.
Alvarez doesn't think the team has altered its approach on the road.
“I think we keep the same approach no matter where we're at,” he said. “We try to keep a gap-to-gap approach in every ballpark we play in.
“I think we've had the same approach all year. We're going to have our days where we do really well and days where we don't.”
The team would like nothing more than for Garrett Jones' third-inning homer into McCovey Cove to mark the beginning of a turnaround for the struggling slugger who entered Thursday batting just .133 in August and .205 in the second half of the season.
Ironically, Jones said a day before the blast that he had become too pull-oriented and was working on better using the whole field. Jones said he was not trying to pull the pitch he homered on Thursday night.
In franchise history, the Pirates have homered into a natural body of water three times. Jones has done it twice season, also homering into the Allegheny River.
“That was just being on time,” Jones said. “Being on time for his best fastball, staying real short on a 3-2 count. … It was just a reaction.”
Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates will implement price increase for 2015 tickets
- Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister named Rangers manager