For the second time this postseason, the Philadelphia Phillies have home-field advantage, this time in the National League Championship Series. And their opponents, the Arizona Diamondbacks, are trying to account for the effect the home crowd has on the team.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Diamondbacks played recordings of CBP crowd noise from the COVID-shortened 2020 season in an attempt to recreate the atmosphere during batting practice Friday.
In the 2023 postseason, the Phillies are 4-0 at home. As John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia shared, the team's 26-11 postseason record at Citizens Bank Park represents the best winning percentage at any ballpark in baseball history:
For their part, the Diamondbacks players aren't too worried about the atmosphere they'll encounter at Citizens Bank Park. Through the first two series of the 2023 postseason, Arizona is 4-0 on the road, with two road wins coming against the Milwaukee Brewers and two against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly, who was in the stands at CBP for Game 3 of the World Series against the Houston Astros last year, relayed his thoughts to David Brandt of The Associated Press: "I have a hard time believing that anything I'm about to experience is going to be louder than that."
Kelly added the following in regard to the hype surrounding playing in Philadelphia in the playoffs: "Everyone says it's kind of intimidating, but I feel like that's the fun part. ... So if they're yelling at you or for you, as long as there are 40,000, 50,000 people in the stands, that's what we get excited for."
But are the Diamondbacks ready for 40,000-plus Phillies fans who kick up the noise to the next level in October? That remains to be seen, but there's one absolute: The fans in Philadelphia will show up, and they will make their presence known:
As ESPN's Buster Olney pointed out during the National League Division Series, there's some merit to the fact that even if the crowd noise doesn't negatively affect the opposing team, it serves the purpose of hyping up the Phillies players:
Arizona's closer, Paul Sewald, noted that jumping out to an early lead like they did against the Dodgers can silence the crowd, according to Doug Haller of The Athletic: "You know, there were 60,000 people waving blue towels this week, and then they weren't waving them much after the first inning."
With these Phillies being fighters who tend to claw their way back into games, though, the fans aren't likely to give up on them, even when the circumstances seem unfavorable.
Third baseman Evan Longoria added, via Haller: "Look, we all know the atmosphere in Philly is going to be crazy. ... There's going to be things said that you probably wouldn't say anywhere else and you probably shouldn't say even at a baseball game. And I think we're prepared for that."
During a series played in Philadelphia in May, the Diamondbacks took two of three, with the one Phillies win coming in extra innings, giving the opposing team confidence that it can replicate that success at CBP.
While reminding reporters that Arizona is a good, young team that can beat opponents in a lot of different ways, reliever Kevin Ginkel didn't seem worried about what awaits in Philly: "I got thick skin. The atmosphere there, I've played there before."
This series could be shaping up to be a battle of home dominance versus road dominance. Regardless, don't count out the importance of home-field advantage to any of the Phillies players, especially Bryce Harper:
Phillies fans know what to do. The NLCS gets underway in Philadelphia, with Games 1 and 2 slated for Monday and Tuesday, and the Phillies will look to once again rely on their home fans to come through and propel them to the lead before the series turns to Arizona.