Pirates 6, Diamondbacks 2: Hitters' production continues to fall off outside Chase Field

2013-08-17T00:00:00Z Pirates 6, Diamondbacks 2: Hitters' production continues to fall off outside Chase FieldNick Piecoro The Arizona Republic Arizona Daily Star
August 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PITTSBURGH - Nearly every team in baseball would rather hit in the comfortable, familiar environment of its home ballpark, and the Diamondbacks, who play half their games in the hitter-happy zone that is Chase Field, are no different.

But the contrast between their home and road production has been drastic over the past two months, a trend that wasted no time in rearing its ugly head again on Friday night, when the Diamondbacks dropped the opening game of a 10-game road trip with a 6-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

Granted, more than a small amount of credit should go to the Pirates' Gerrit Cole, a flame-throwing right-hander who a little more than two years ago was the first player taken in a highly regarded draft and who tossed six strong innings on Friday night.

But in amassing just five hits - only one for extra bases - the Diamondbacks' road struggles extend far beyond this one game.

Entering the day, they had just a .639 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in their past 22 road games, the fourth-worst OPS among baseball's 30 teams. At the same time, they've posted a .744 OPS - seventh-best in the majors - in 31 home games.

"It's just one of those things because we prepare the same way, we come here early for batting practice and everything," catcher Wil Nieves said. "It's just one of those years where we play better at home. Hopefully we end that streak of playing bad Saturday, but we're doing the same thing, just working hard and playing good baseball, it's just not going our way."

Some of it could be related to the schedule. Their road struggles seemed to begin in San Diego, a notorious pitchers' park, before continuing on in series against the Nationals, Braves and Mets, all teams with either good pitching staffs or who make their homes in pitchers' parks or both.

Then came road series against the Giants, Rays and Red Sox - again, more difficult pitching environments and/or solid pitching staffs.

Despite the struggles, shortstop Cliff Pennington doesn't think anyone on the team is thinking much about it. Or, he said, at least he isn't.

"We like to hit at Chase," Pennington said. "Our home games are at a good place to hit. That doesn't hurt. But I don't think that there's any drastic thing. I think it's probably a small sample size, if that's the case."

They seemed to have little chance on Friday night. Cole was throwing his fastball up to 99 mph and mixing it with sliders and cutters in the high-80s/low-90s and even throwing a change-up that registered in the upper-80s.

"It's elite," Pennington said of Cole's stuff, saying it probably ranks among the five best pitchers the Diamondbacks have faced this season.

They took advantage of a pair of walks in the fourth inning, scoring runs on RBI singles by Martin Prado and A.J. Pollock, but managed just three baserunners in Cole's other five innings.

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