SAN FRANCISCO -- Early indications show that the Giants have regained the comfort of home.They're 8-3 at AT&T Park, representing the National League's third-best home record. They've won their first four home series for the first time since 1993, which happened to be Barry Bonds' first year as a Giant. It's a welcome change for the Giants, who have posted losing home records in three of the previous four years. They finished below .500 in each of those seasons, partly due to their inability to thrive at AT&T Park. Utility man Rich Aurilia, the last link to the Giants' 1997-2004 era of on-field prosperity, pondered the club's home success and said, "That's how it used to be." Moreover, Aurilia added, there's no reason it shouldn't stay that way. "Teams hate coming here," he said. "I can't tell you how many guys said when they got to first base, 'I don't know how you've played in this city this long with the way the weather is.' So it's definitely in other teams' minds. We need to use it to our advantage." An example of this edge occurred in Monday's series opener against Los Angeles. Edgar Renteria lifted a harmless fly to right-center field, where Dodgers outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier collided in pursuit of the ball. The wind and crowd noise prevented them from hearing each other call for the ball, which went off Kemp's glove for a gift double that led to a three-run Giants outburst. That probably wouldn't have happened to Kemp and Ethier at Dodger Stadium. And it's safe to assume that their Giants counterparts, Aaron Rowand and Randy Winn, somehow would have coped with the circumstances and made the play. The Giants' home surge, which they'll attempt to sustain during a three-game series beginning Friday against the Colorado Rockies, was offset by an 0-6 trip to San Diego and Los Angeles from April 10-16. To remain in the upper echelon of the NL West, they must improve on the road, where they'll play 13 of 20 games after the Colorado series. "You have to play well at home, and if you're .500 on the road, you have a really good chance of being there at the end," Aurilia said, citing a familiar baseball truism. Another staple, pitching, explains the Giants' prowess at home. Their 2.43 home ERA leads the National League and far outshines the league's average home ERA of 4.09 entering Thursday. By contrast, San Francisco ranks 15th with a 5.79 ERA on the road, due mainly to that disastrous San Diego-Los Angeles stretch. "Our pitching's giving us a chance every game," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I can't think of a game that's gotten away from us at home, pitching-wise."
In fact, each of the Giants' AT&T Park defeats were by mere two-run margins, and two of the three games were tied entering the ninth inning.Right-hander Matt Cain addressed the sense of security Giants pitchers feel at AT&T Park, where the dimensions and elements frequently conspire against hitters.
"You're not going to give up those cheap home runs, so you try to keep the score down and keep your team in the game and it's going to work out," said Cain (2-0), who's scheduled to start Saturday.A handful of individual improvements have hastened the turnaround. Left-hander Barry Zito, occasionally reviled by home fans, threw 13 consecutive scoreless innings at AT&T Park spanning his previous two starts and owns a 2.03 ERA by the bay, compared with 5.93 last year. Bengie Molina hit a respectable .283 at home last season, but that has ballooned to .385 as he leads the Giants in most significant offensive categories. Rowand finished last year with a .256 home average that has grown to .344. Rowand acknowledged his adjustments, which have ranged from technical to mental.
"In any sport, in any job, the more experience you have, the more you have to reflect on," he said. "You see where you made mistakes and what you can try to do to become better."Rowand also offered his own explanation for the Giants' AT&T Park renaissance. "We're a better team than we were last year," he said. "I don't think it's anything so much to do with home and away."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.