Citi Field has seen its slice of architectural mishaps, record breaking collapse, and 3rd degree assault. Only a season and change old, it has housed heart break and woe usually reserved for third world countries; and it is where a young phenom* named Eric Bruntlett ended a no-outs, 9th inning Mets rally with an unassisted triple play (*EDITOR’S NOTE: Bruntlett’s ‘phenom’ label resting on his status as one of those rare players to be beaten to the Hall by a piece of his own clothing).
As is their custom each season, Citi Field breeds a team whose skilled infrastructure is slowly chewed away by freak injuries, poor judgement, and a parasitic lack of chemistry. The Phillies have been talented and lucky enough to be better, more confident, and less injured in recent years, allowing our fanbase to bathe in the satisfaction of not just winning, but watching the catastrophic meltdown of an arch nemesis. After all, 50% of baseball is sadism, and that’s a stat you won’t find on the back of a trading card.
No, this is not [another] unwarranted, classless attack on the Metropolitans. It is an attack on their home. Namely, our issues with playing there.
May-June-even early July was a taste of baseball poison in Philadelphia. A drought had settled overhead, turning our normally vivacious, plentiful offense into a gasping, barren deathscape. It was in the throes of this torment we wandered aimlessly into Citi Field and did not only fail to win a single game of a three game series, but we failed to even score a run.
That’s bad. That’s Bruntlett bad.
But this late-June vacation to hell was only our first wildly unsuccessful excursion at Citi Field. It took us four games to score our first run, and so far in the season series we’ve only scored seven in six games.
What is it about Flushing’s Met-hole that puts a hex on the average Phillies bat? The environment is not particularly dangerous. The place doesn’t sell out every night, a good chunk of the stands are taken up by migrating Phils fans, and there are 10,000 less seats than there were in Shea. Which indicates the problem can be either structural or internal.
Citi Field is a harsh bitch to the home run hitter, slapping deep fly balls back into play with no interest in late game heroics. Citizens Bank Park, on the other hand, is a pitcher’s nightmare, as the offensively kind confines seem to usher home runs out like a grandmother welcoming you inside for a tray of fresh brownies. The jarring nature between the two could mean a subtraction in Phillies offense–with names like Howard and Utley–who seem to be quite invested in the long ball, and rendered somewhat more harmless when placed in a park like Citi Field.
But nobody’s hitting a ton of dingers for the Phils right now, as injuries and a lineup with more bench names than starters has required them to rely heavily on small ball and manufacturing runs. Earlier in the year, when we were still getting shut out in the Citi, these guys were healthy and still neck deep in epic fails.
Did we just wing into Citi Field in the midst of a slump that would have been cutting us down no matter the location? The last two games we have managed to spit out enough runs to finally win in the Mets’ home. And, the first game in the most recent series was a 1-0 loss pitched by Cole Hamels, who in his last start suffered the same outcome. His great pitching does not seem to inspire any offense in his teammates, so this may be a case of bad mojos intersecting.
Or could it be the toilets, of which there are 30 less per seat than in Shea (70 to the original 101)?! No! But I really wanted, nay, needed to work that factoid in there, because it was about toilets, and I don’t even have to explain why that is funny.
The point is, we’ve reported there with a healthy lineup, with an injured lineup, in the rain, in the sun, on weekends, weekdays, and facing a variety of Mets’ starters and still with the result being a 2-4 stretch run. Are the Phillies just inconsistent, or uncomfortable there? They don’t seem to have an issue beating the Mets, and the Mets don’t have a ton of difficulty handling us (Right now the Mets lead the season series 6-5).
Perhaps the best conclusion is that the “early summer” slump and the “When Cole Hamels Pitches” slump are two different demons, and we can relax knowing one of them is over. But when bad things happen for the Phillies, a lot of them are emphasized in Citi Field, not just because of its shape, or its audience, or who’s on Charlie Manuel’s lineup card, but because it’s the Mets, and every loss there is humiliating.
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Images courtesy of Yardbarker.