|Humidor makes its playoff debut Saturday night at Coors Field|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 05 October 2007 22:54|
Philadelphia left-hander Jamie Moyer and Rockies rookie right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez match up Saturday night in Game 3 of their NL divisional the first playoff game in Colorado since the humidor was introduced in 2002 to keep baseballs from drying up in Denver's thin air.
The ballpark has lost much of its reputation as the ``Coors Canaveral'' launching pad ever since.
``There is a difference, there is, especially when it's cold out or cool out at night, the ball doesn't fly like it used to,'' Rockies first baseman Todd Helton said. ``Day games, you'll find that the ball flies as of old.''
If the Phillies win Game 3, Sunday night's game starts even later, and the forecast calls for a high of just 47 degrees with possibility of rain and snow mix.
Helton's power numbers have dropped since the humidor's arrival but he said he's a fan of it anyhow.
``Oh yeah, games are shorter, thank God,'' Helton said. ``I think it's just sort of leveled the playing field a little bit. As long we win, I don't care what happens. They could store them under water for all I care.''
The steel-walled, greenhouse-like room behind the Rockies' clubhouse is welcome news to fielders who remember the days when soft pop-ups used to float into the gaps for extra bases and lazy fly balls would drift over the walls for home runs.
Even though scoring and homers have been on a steady decline at Coors Field in recent years, the ballpark still plays big, however. The outfield is so spacious that fielders still must play deep and bunched, giving up balls down the line that are going to be doubles anyway, Phillies first base coach Davey Lopes said.
Lopes said teams used to hate coming to Colorado despite the ballpark's beauty because the slugfests rendered NL playing styles moot, but now ``it's much fairer.''
``The only thing I know is the dimensions are fairly large because of the altitude,'' Moyer said. ``The thing I notice here, if anything, them having the advantage of playing 81 games, they take advantage of the ball in the gap and go first to third or second to home, whereas maybe say in the more normal ballparks that aren't at this elevation, base runners aren't apt to take extra bases.''
The first decade of major league baseball in downtown Denver was dominated by the Blake Street Bombers. Balls flew out of Coors Field with such regularity that no lead was safe, base-stealers never let up and box scores resembled Sunday softball games.
Now, it's a place where pitchers no longer fear to tread, where they don't have to worry about feigning injury to avoid the hits to their ERA and psyche.
Colorado manager Clint Hurdle loves the humidor.
``It's given our pitchers a level playing field for the first time since the inception of the ballpark in 1995,'' he said. ``Little did we know for a number of years the balls were shrinking, traveling farther, and we would go, 'Whoa!' and 'Ah, look at that one!' We had no clue. Nobody did.''
Actually, pitchers back then said the baseball felt like a cue ball in their hands. Now, the feel the seams - from opening day to the playoffs.
``I'm sure it's going to filter into many other major league parks,'' Hurdle said. ``And I wouldn't be surprised if it's in every major league ballpark in the very near future.''
Phillies infielder Wes Helms doesn't expect the humidor to keep runs down this weekend.
``Well, with the hitters they got and some of the hitters we got, the ball can leave the park at any time,'' Helms said.
Humidor or not, Philadelphia right-hander Brett Myers said pitching in the Mile High City can affect a pitcher's state of mind and therefore his performance.
He recalled his first appearance at Coors Field and said his breaking ball wasn't working in the bullpen but once he got into the game he realized he had just been overthrowing his warm-ups.
``I was trying to get it to do too much because I knew it was going to break because of what people say,'' Myers said.
The Rockies have gone 39-15 at Coors Field since June 2, the best home record in baseball in that span, and they've won 16 of their last 17 overall.
``If you run into a pitcher that has his good stuff that day, all momentum comes to a halt,'' suggested Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. ``And that's what we're going to need from Jamie, come out here and just throw some stuff that those boys can't get hold of, because they've hit our pitching darn well.''
``That's fair to say we've been riding this momentum,'' Rockies rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki replied. ``When you win 16 out of 17, you're doing something right. Hopefully it doesn't end. Hopefully he's wrong.''