As the Giants filed through their handshake line after polishing off a three-game sweep of the Brewers on Wednesday afternoon and returned to their clubhouse to prepare for the next seven games on the road, hitting coach Hensley Meulens approached Matt Duffy and jokingly told the third baseman not to worry about packing.
“He was like, ‘Boch (manager Bruce Bochy) said we’re going to leave you at home,’ ” Duffy said, grinning. “ ‘You can take the road trip off.’ ”
Duffy had three of the Giants’ 16 hits in a 10-1 rout of Milwaukee. The performance capped an eight-game homestand in which Duffy had 11 hits in 30 at-bats, raising his average at AT&T Park this season to .356, the third-highest home average in the National League among players with at least 100 at-bats.
However, he is hitting .130 on the road – the worst such average among National League regulars.
Duffy and the Giants struggle to explain the split. Bochy this week mused, “It’s not like (Duffy) changes his approach on the road: His stride, his swing, it’s all the same.”
.295 Matt Duffy’s batting average last season as a rookie
Bochy said he generally expects players to perform better at home, where the playing and living situations are more familiar but that the difference in Duffy’s numbers is “dramatic.”
“I feel like the quality of at-bats is there (on the road),” Duffy said. “The luck definitely hasn’t been. But it’s not all luck.”
In fact, Duffy said he found something mechanical with his swing during this past homestand that he hopes will carry into the Giants’ upcoming series in Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. Duffy said he worked on shifting his weight onto his back leg before lifting his front foot, which he does as a timing mechanism. That allows him to feel more balanced as he waits for the pitch.
“I think that’s a big thing I’ve been doing all year is kind of jumping at the ball, and when you do that, you don’t give yourself a chance to see it very well,” Duffy said. “Instead of lunging forward, (this tweak) just allows me to sit back, let the ball get to me and then be short and quick (with my swing).”
Duffy said the first day he worked on that adjustment with Meulens was last Friday. That night, the Giants faced Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. They lost 3-2, but Duffy homered off Kershaw in his first at-bat – ending a streak of 214 at-bats for Duffy without a homer.
“The encouraging thing is I was able to be quick and get to that ball up and middle-in and still get the barrel to it and pull it,” said Duffy, who hit the ball into the left-field seats.
“I think the quickness and reaction (are) what I’ve been missing throughout the year. I felt like if I wanted to get to the pitch in, I had to cheat, or if I wanted to hit the slider, I had to sit on it. And right there I was just seeing the ball. I wasn’t guessing or sitting on a certain pitch. I just saw it and reacted.”
.251 Matt Duffy’s batting average this season
After hitting .295 as a rookie last season with 12 home runs and an OPS of .762, Duffy’s sophomore year has been more of a struggle. He is batting .251 with a .658 OPS – but he collected six hits in the Brewers series. Duffy also has driven in six runs in his past six games, equaling his total from his previous 51 games.
The Giants remain confident in Duffy. Bochy moved Duffy down in the batting order last homestand, but only slightly, from third to fifth. Meulens’ jokes aside, when the Giants’ plane departed for Tampa Bay after Wednesday’s game, Duffy was aboard.
“I think something that’s encouraging this past series, especially, was I felt like I maybe gave away one or two at-bats the whole series, where before I was giving away two at-bats a game,” Duffy said.
“Something I really look at if I’m struggling is, is the quality of the at-bats there, and did I see the ball? If the answer to that is yes, consistently, I know I’m in a good spot. And I think the results will come after that.”