On To Philly

The Phillies led the NL with 117 home runs in the first half of the season.<BR><BR> That's the bad news, because 73 of those homers came at Citizens Bank Park and 44 on the road. Which helps illustrate just what a launching pad the Phillies' new home has turned out to be.

There were 144 homers hit at Citizens Bank Park in the first half. That's by far the most in the NL; Coors Field in Denver was a distant second with 111.

In eight full seasons since the strike, no NL team that has played in the stadium in which the most home runs have been hit has finished higher than third.

No team that played in the second most homer-friendly park has won the division outright. The 2001 Astros tied for first and the 1998 Cubs made it to the playoffs as a wild card.

And only two of eight teams that played in the park that yielded the third most home runs won the division, the 2000 Cardinals and the 2001 Diamondbacks.


Obviously, that puts a lot of pressure on pitchers to avoid making mistakes that could end up in the seats, pressure that can become cumulative as the season goes on.

"It's just hard," LHP Randy Wolf said. "Every game can be a high-scoring game. Even a good pitching staff is going to give up some fly balls that go out.

"It's no excuse but, traditionally, it's not easy to rely on out-pounding the other team every day. The short fence in center is the only place it really doesn't travel. In pitcher's batting practice, when I hit, I feel so strong."

All-Star 3B Mike Lowell of the Florida Marlins agreed.

"No lead is ever secure," he said. "You can be down, 5-2, in a hitter's park and with one decently-hit ball, you're right back in it. The whole game can change on one pitch."

PHILLIES NOTES, QUOTES --OF Jason Michaels, who hasn't started a game in the second half, is getting close to returning from the strained hamstring that has limited him to pinch-hitting duty.

--Manager Larry Bowa notched his 300th win as Phillies manager on Saturday. "It's nice, but getting to the playoffs is the goal," said Bowa. The franchise record is 645 by Gene Mauch.

--CF Marlon Byrd, who opened the season as the regular leadoff hitter and played his way back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, hasn't exactly turned himself around. After 102 at bats for the Red Barons, he was hitting .245 with no homers. He was also 0-for-3 in stolen base attempts.

--3B David Bell is playing despite a strained left quadriceps but wants to stay in the lineup. "I may not be able to run 100%," he said. "And if it's something I find out is going to hurt the team, I won't play."

--1B Ryan Howard set the Double-A Reading franchise record for home runs when he hit his 34th of the season Friday, passing Greg (The Bull) Luzinski.

BY THE NUMBERS: 9 -- Straight seasons of 30 or more homers for 1B Jim Thome. He hit his major league-leading 30th this year against the Mets at Shea Stadium on Saturday. Only Barry Bonds and Jimmie Foxx (12) have had longer streaks.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's no way it can be any worse." -- LHP Billy Wagner, explaining why he expects the rotation to be better in the second half of the season.

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