ST. PETERSBURG — After reaching the .500 mark for the eighth time this season, the Rays will enter the new Yankee Stadium on Friday for a critical four-game series against the American League East leaders.
Based on past results, home runs may be the deciding factor.
Through the first 25 games at Yankee Stadium this season, 91 balls left the yard. Comparatively, 93 home runs were hit through the first 25 games at the old Yankee Stadium in 2008 and ’07 combined.†
The Rays played a two-game series in the Bronx from May 6-7 — winning both games — and nine balls went out.†
Six of those were provided by the Rays in an 8-6 win in Game 2. And one of those — Jason Bartlett’s first-inning shot off Andy Pettitte — showed Rays manager Joe Maddon just how easily longballs can be triggered in the Yankees’ new place.
“The ball did go out in right,” Maddon recalled. “I mean, I can’t deny that. Even J.B.’s … he hit it out to right-center. That surprised me.”
The new Stadium’s dimensions are exactly the same as the old one. But, for some reason — whether it’s slightly altered dimensions, a smaller right-field wall or freak wind patterns — the new park plays smaller.
Nobody can really figure out why, though — including Maddon.
“I really don’t know what the issue is,” he said. “I mean, it doesn’t feel like there’s a strong breeze down there, and I don’t even know if it’s the open concourse. I’ve heard different things. But, for whatever reason, [the ball is] just going more.
“It’s hard to tell, but it was different [the last time the Rays played there].”
Check out more on the launching pad that now is Yankee Stadium here:†http://newyork.yankees.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090604&content_id=5135218&vkey=news_nyy&fext=.jsp&c_id=nyy
– Alden Gonzalez