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THE ADVANTAGE OF HOME COOKING


THE ADVANTAGE OF HOME COOKING
LOS ANGELES

So, at what point do we start calling Dodger Stadium a "pit?"

You know, like those notorious basketball arenas where visitors fear for their safety and home teams bundle winning streaks a dozen at a time.

Baseball parks are supposed to be immune to "home-court advantage," not counting etiquette issues like the Brooklyn Dodgers accusing the New York Giants of stealing catchers' signals from a center field hideaway.

Whatever quirky factors a ballyard - its fans, its groundskeepers, its dimensions, its weather - brings to the equation can always be negated by one thing: a guy standing on the mound throwing bullets on the corners.

So by the time the Dodgers had beaten the Padres, 2-1, Saturday night for a franchise-tying 9-0 start to the home season, you had to figure something was at work here other than it being a statistical oddity.

Right?

"I'd say it's a statistical oddity," Dodgers first baseman James Loney said before the game, effectively killing the premise.

OK, Baseball teams never win them all, not even at home. In fact, a Baseball team would be ecstatic to go through the home schedule winning twice for every loss. In their first 47 seasons at Dodger Stadium, the club reached a .667 home winning percentage only three times -1978, 1980 and 1991.

But what if a Baseball team were truly scary at home, pulling some kind of karmic energy out of its perceived mastery of familiar surroundings?

Or to put it in a way so that Manager Joe Torre doesn't think he's dealing with a kook, do these Dodgers somehow fit the ballpark to make them particularly tough to beat here?

"I'd like to think so," Torre said before the game. "Because that's 81 wins, right?"

Exactly. Exactly kidding.

"But when you go through the first homestand like we did (6-0), you have to believe you're feeling pretty comfortable at home," he said. "The more you win someplace, the more confident you're going to be playing there."

The stadium has always had a reputation, but not for intimidation. It's a pitcher's park. Successful Dodgers teams in Los Angeles historically featured first-class arms. Hitting? Not so much. A natural dose of heavier sea air has always kept the place from being a home run paradise.

Oddly, these Dodgers don't seem to match the place. It's been the hitters picking up the inconsistent pitchers. The Dodgers are second in runs in the league. The staff earned run average is 4.00, and sixth.

All things being equal, home teams do have a slight edge by batting last. In a tie ballgame, especially, it's a strategic plus.

"Being home, I always felt you should win those games in the ninth and 10th innings," Torre said.

You also get the crowd on your side. Even though it's not the same as a basketball nuthouse with zany fans yelling in your ear, or waving strange objects behind the basket, or helping a referee make a decision, noise can matter at the right time.

Padres pitcher Duaner Sanchez, a former Dodger , had to deal with a screaming, stamping, waving house when he finally walked in the winning run in the 1-0 Dodgers win Friday night.

"I like it when the crowd gets into a game," Loney said. "They're pumped up, they get loud. It helps."

Maybe not pit-like, yet, but plenty good enough.

Reach Gregg Patton at 951-368-9597 or gpatton@PE.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 5, 2009

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