SAN FRANCISCO – One of the more popular idioms in the baseball lexicon refers to Wrigley Field in Chicago. Since anyone can remember, the park on the north side has been known as the Friendly Confines, and an explanation that follows remains the old ball yard is beyond hospitable to hitters.
In recent history, the Diamondbacks have found their own Friendly Confines. Over the recent past, Arizona’s success at AT&T Park is pronounced, and coming into Wednesday’s game with the Giants here, the Diamondbacks have had more than their fair share of success.
One reason advanced by players and manager Chip Hale is the environment. With a crowd of 41,218 at Tuesday’s Arizona shut-out victory, that represented the 414th straight regular season sell-out. The last time the Giants did not sell out AT&T was on Oct. 1, 2010 for a game against the Padres. The specter of the constant sell-out, the intense, competitive nature of the Giants and the success from manager Bruce Bochy all interacted to create an atmosphere conducive to playing stellar baseball.
“This is really a fun place to play, and we all get involved,” said center-fielder Chris Owings. “The crowd’s into it, and I think feeds down to the players.”
If there has been one dimension of the team which carried the Diamondbacks to success here, it’s the pitching. With a four-pitcher combined shut out Tuesday night, the Diamondbacks have shut out the Giants six times in their last 12 contests at AT&T. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the most times a team shut-out an opponent on the road in the last two years. Only one team has shut-out opponents on the road more times, and that’s the Dodgers white-washing the Padres at Petco Park.
In those last 12 games at AT&T, Diamondbacks’ pitchers have a combined for a 1.74 ERA, and the Giants have hit a team .207. Regarding the bullpen, Diamondbacks’ relievers have held the Giants scoreless in eight of the last 10 games. That calibrates to a 1.61 ERA over 25 innings.
“I wish I had an answer for their success here, but I don’t,” said Giants’ second baseman Joe Panik before Wednesday’s game. “It’s baseball, and baseball happens.”
Aside from the way the Diamondbacks have recently handled the Giants, there is greater concern in the Bay Area. With the shut-out loss to the Diamondbacks Tuesday night, the Giants fell to 7-8, and under .500 for the first time since last May 3. Coming into Wednesday’s game with the Diamondbacks, the Giants have been held scoreless in the first inning in 12 of their opening 15 games Plus, they are batting just .185 in the opening inning this season. All of which raises a red flag.
“We have to start winning some games at home, Bochy said before Wednesday’s game. “But, why (the Diamondbacks) have handled us here, you just can’t explain some things. I have no reason to give, and wish I did.”
GREAT WORK OFF THE FIELD
Before Wednesday’s game, Giants’ catcher Buster Posey and his wife Kristen announced they plan to make pediatric cancer a central focus in philanthropic efforts this season and beyond. His voice choking during a press conference to announce his initiative before Wednesday’s game with the Diamondbacks, Posey said the birth of his own children represented a clear path and vision.
“We’re parents and every time our kids get a cold or get sick, it’s hard,” he said. “In fighting pediatric cancer, we found the government funds only 4 percent. That’s not near enough, and we want to be a bright spot here.”
With wife Kristen at this side, Posey said that New Era, manufacture of baseball caps, has entered into a partnership, and 28 percent sales of a special Buster Posey cap will go directly to pediatric cancer programs. While Posey said he has no numbers of how much he would like to raise, “it’s as much as possible, and as much as you can give,” he said.
Since Posey created a cause to lend his name and money, the focus is on the immediate San Francisco area. The Giants and Posey plan to host a Pediatric Cancer Awareness Day at AT&T Park on Sept. 17, and long-time basketball commentator Dick Viale will host the event.
Kristen and Buster Posey are parents of boy/girl twins, son Lee and daughter Addison born on Aug. 14, 2011. Emphasis for the project came from Kristen, Buster said, and added, “it’s been Kristen’s passion which led us to this point.”