10/10/08 8:39 PM ET
Phils' park driving Dodgers up the wall
Recessed section at Citizens plays right into Philly's hands
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
Right now, one stretch of wall, one particular patch of Pennsylvania, is the difference between the Phillies having a 2-0 lead over the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series -- and possibly the Dodgers having that same 2-0 lead instead.
It is the recessed straightaway section of wall in left-center at Citizens Bank Park that just robbed Casey Blake in Game 2 of what would have been a tying three-run homer in some venues. It is the same piece of wall that made Manny Ramirez settle for an RBI double in Game 1 -- instead of a two-run homer that proved the scoring difference.
What's all that talk about this being a pitcher's worst nightmare? Memo to John Smoltz: It's not helping the Dodgers hitters. It's a very specific piece of Earth, in fact, that your average Dodgers fan really hates right now. Here is why:
Game 1: First inning, Ramirez unloads on a Cole Hamels pitch, and the ball slams high off the section of the wall that angles out sharply toward Ashburn Alley beyond the center-field wall. Another foot or two up, or another foot or two to the right, and that ball is a two-run homer. Andre Ethier scores on the play, the lone run in the inning. It's a two-run shot if it's gone. The Phillies go on to win, 3-2. Wall haunts Dodgers.
"Manny's ball, when he first hit it, I thought, any time he hits a ball in the air I think it's out anyway," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said.
Game 2: Seventh inning, Dodgers trailing, 8-5. Ramirez already has hit a three-run homer to chip away at an early 8-2 deficit. Now, with two out, men at the corners and Ryan Madson on the mound, Blake turns on a pitch and lofts it toward the same spot. Center fielder Shane Victorino goes back, back, leaps, makes the catch and that indention is where a game-tying homer goes to die.
That lead holds up, and the Dodgers go home down 0-2.
"I thought Casey's ball was going to be up against [the wall] and Shane made a nice play on it," Torre said.
So far, there is a wall between them and a trip to the 104th World Series. The NLCS moves on to Dodger Stadium now, but it remains to be seen whether that particular patch of Pennsylvania took too much out of them.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.