ARLINGTON, Texas - The Braves and Dodgers combined for 221 homers across the 60-game regular season. Their head-to-head National League Championship Series probably won’t feature the same fireworks.
The winner of the best-of-seven series will advance to the World Series – which will also be in Arlington – against the Rays or Astros. Both teams worked out for the second consecutive day at Globe Life Field, the Rangers' spacious new stadium. The Braves began workouts at 7:45 p.m. (central time) Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s big,” manager Brian Snitker said of the stadium. “It’s beautiful. They did a great job here. This place is something else. It’s definitely honest. Getting feedback from some of the guys who’ve played here, it’s a big ballpark.”
The big, beautiful ballpark is also a home run suppressor, which is relevant in a series between MLB’s two best homer-hitting clubs. The Dodgers led the majors with 118 home runs, while the Braves were second with 103. They tied for the MLB lead in slugging percentage at .483.
While the Braves have been feeling out Globe Life Field for the past two days, the Dodgers just completed a three-game sweep of the Padres at the same location. L.A. scored 12 runs in the clinching Game 3 – none via homer – and the teams didn’t homer in Game 1. They did combine for three homers (it would’ve been four had Cody Bellinger not skied over the wall to rob one) in Game 2, but the ballpark largely played as expected.
“You have to hit it to get it out of here, that’s for sure,” Snitker said, comparing it to Marlins Park and Citi Field before those locations moved their fences in. “There’s a lot of room in the outfield. Just watching BP last night, it’s not flying out of here like it does a lot of these places.”
The ballpark dynamic adds another layer of intrigue to a tantalizing matchup. The Braves and Dodgers are equally dangerous offenses. The Dodgers' pitching is stellar, while the Braves' group has been the statistical best this postseason, pitching four shutouts in five games. Both are sound defensive clubs.
The dimensions of the field are 329 feet down the left field line, 372 feet to left center, 407 feet to center, 374 feet to right center and 326 feet down the right field line.
On the defensive subject, Snitker said the Braves won’t alter their outfield. They’ve been using Adam Duvall, Ronald Acuna and Nick Markakis with Marcell Ozuna serving as the designated hitter. Cristian Pache, a rookie defensive wizard, could be subbed late into games.
But the focus will center on the offenses. The Braves won’t have a true feel for the stadium until after Game 1.
“It’s a large field, dimension-wise,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “It’s hard for me personally to know because I was hitting yesterday I hit all my balls to shortstop, so I’m not quite sure. I know some of the guys were hitting some balls to right-center that usually are gone and they weren’t going yesterday in BP. Max Muncy told me he hit a ball I think 105 (mph) at the right launch angle and it made it to the warning track during a game. I’ve heard it’s a big field but we’ll see how it goes. We’ll see if Ronnie and Marcell can clear a double.”
Acuna, asked for his take on the stadium, wasn’t fazed.
“I don’t think the size of the park matters at all,” Acuna said via team interpreter Franco Garcia. “I’ll speak for the rest of the team in saying I don’t think we’re going up there always trying to hit a home run. We’re just trying to play our style of baseball. … To me, the dimensions of the park aren’t that important.”
Acuna’s comment echoed Dodgers' lead-off hitter Mookie Betts, who said before the NLDS: “It’s a pretty big field. But that means there’s a lot of hits out there, so we just need to build innings with hits instead of homers.”
If Globe Life stays true to form, the team that advances to the World Series will have figured out how to piece big hits together instead of their usual slugging-it-out-of-the-park ways.
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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC