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Kevin Pillar tries to explain his ‘strange’ Oracle Park hitting


Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports


No, Kevin Pillar says, he hasn’t looked at the curious splits that make little sense. But he does acknowledge they’re “strange.”

An outfielder who was bred at hitter-friendly Rogers Centre and who was traded to hitter-nightmare Oracle Park has made this house of horrors his home. A lineup that lives to travel — they’re slashing an eye-opening .229/.293/.366 at home, compared with .249/.315/.434 on the road — has found its most consistent San Francisco hitter.

“When I get here, I try not to even think about hitting home runs or necessarily driving the ball,” the center fielder told KNBR before Tuesday’s game against the A’s at Oracle Park. “I just try to think about being a good hitter, trying to stay to the middle of the fields, use the whole field. It’s kind of rewarded me.

“… Sometimes you go to these hitters’ ballparks, whether it’s Colorado or St. Louis, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, places like that. Or me historically, my career playing in Toronto, a hitter’s ballpark. Maybe part of the time I was trying to create something that I didn’t really need to create. Here I don’t try to create anything, I just let it happen.”

As the rest of the lineup waits to leave home to feast, or at least the team’s version of feasting — the Giants have hit 47 Oracle Park homers in 60 games, compared with 79 dingers in 59 road tilts — Pillar has done his part to balance the splits. He’s hitting .261 with 10 home runs in 62 home games, while those numbers dip to .239 and five on the road. His 15 homers, 61 RBIs and 110 total hits all lead the team.

With an organization that imports so many players, the Oracle Park reputation looms large. What does Pillar tell a fellow outfielder like Joey Rickard, who had heard the stories about his new home?

“Don’t really change what you do,” said the 30-year-old. “Some people, if they have this right-center approach, it’s going to be a little bit harder to drive the ball. But I think you keep the same mindset and you hit the ball hard. And if you make an out, you make an out.

“… You can’t really try to change your home swing from your road swing.”

Pillar’s play has elevated at the right time. Evan Longoria carried the team until his plantar fasciitis in July, and Alex Dickerson grabbed the baton until he went down July 30.

In 11 August games entering Tuesday’s, Pillar was batting .394 (13-for-33) with two homers and five RBIs. The team needed someone to step up, and he and Mike Yastrzemski have answered the call.

“We haven’t really had one guy from Opening Day to now carry this team,” Pillar said. “It’s really been a collective effort. … Anyone who’s put this uniform on all year has had their moment.

“… Every day you should feel like, ‘It’s my turn.'”

The Giants are facing a decision this offseason with Pillar, a solid (if not spectacular) center fielder who does not fit Farhan Zaidi’s on-base ethos, but has been their most reliable find this year. He’s making $5.8 million this season, with one more year of arbitration left.

He’s a non-tender candidate for a team with a very unsteady outfield. But at a time when the question of whether a swing will work at a park where few swings do, Pillar has separated himself.

“He’s done a nice job, hasn’t he?” Bruce Bochy said. “He hits well at this ballpark, that’s a good thing. We’ve got some guys who struggle here, but it doesn’t seem to affect him at all. And you need that.

“You need guys comfortable hitting in your ballpark.”

 

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