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Phils won't change hitting approach at AT&T

Phils won't change hitting approach at AT&T

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino took their turns in the batting cage on a sunny Monday afternoon by the Bay. Their BP group put precisely zero balls into the outfield seats.

Welcome to AT&T Park, San Francisco's spacious answer to Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Bandbox -- er, Park -- and the site of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday afternoon.

"The key is taking batting practice the same here as we do at home," said Phils hitting coach Greg Gross. "Theoretically, we're trying to hit low line drives in the gaps and get carry. In our ballpark, when you do that, a lot of balls are going to go in the seats. Here, hopefully they'll equate into balls in the gaps and extra-base hits.

"That's how they approach it, and it's pretty easy with a veteran club. They've played in this park a lot."

That's the theory, but in reality, AT&T Park hasn't been friendly to the Phillies over the past three years. Philadelphia ranked among the NL's top three scoring teams in every regular season from 2008-10, but has batted just .199 on the bank of McCovey Cove in that span with a .313 slugging percentage. The Phillies have scored just 32 runs in those 10 games -- 3.2 runs per.

That's the Phils' lowest batting average at any venue during that span. Compare it to their overall numbers from 2008-10: A .258 average, .333 on-base percentage, .433 slugging percentage and 4.92 runs per game.

Think the numbers are inflated by all of those home games at cozy Citizens Bank Park? In the 240 road games over the same span, the Phillies own a .253 batting average, .327 on-base mark and a .422 slugging percentage. They have scored 4.84 runs per road game, including 5.43 runs per road game in venues outside of San Francisco.

"I don't want to know about it," Victorino said. "I don't want to worry about how bad I've done here. I want to think about how well I'll do [on Tuesday]."

AT&T Park measures 339 feet down the left-field line and 309 down the line to right, though a 25-foot-tall brick wall and the breeze blowing in off McCovey Cove makes it play deeper for left-handed pull hitters. Right-handed hitters can reach the seats to a 382-foot power alley in left-center field, but lefties will have a more difficult time pulling the ball out to right. The deepest part of the park is in right-center field -- 421 foot from home plate under a wall that rises at least 18 feet.

Citizens Bank Park plays much smaller, about 330 feet down each of the foul lines, 369 to the power alleys and 409 to the deepest part of the park, just left of straightaway center-field.

Victorino pointed out that the Phillies proved this season they can win without the long ball, like they did in Game 2 on Sunday night, scoring six runs without the benefit of a homer. After leading the NL in home runs in 2008 and '09, they slipped to fifth in '10, with 166.

Howard, Utley and Rollins all saw significant dips in power in 2010. Yet the Phillies, behind the second-half pitching of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Game 3 starter Cole Hamels, still led the Majors with 97 wins and ranked second to the Reds among NL clubs in runs scored.

"It's still baseball," Victorino said. "It's a bigger park, we know that. But you can't change your approach. You still have to go out there and try to put a good swing on the ball. If you try to change things up, that's when things tend to fall astray."

Gross had another explanation for the Phils' troubles here, and it started with Tim Lincecum, Johnathan Sanchez and Matt Cain, the current anchors of the Giants' NL-best pitching staff.

"Then you look at their bullpen, where they have four guys they can throw out there throwing in the mid-90s," Gross said. "It's more a product of their pitching staff than the ballpark."

So the Phillies will approach their key Game 3 the same as usual, even if the outfield fences are a bit further away.

"You're still hitting a little white round ball with red stitches," outfielder Jayson Werth said. "It's not much different. The only thing that is different is how the field plays and how the ball carries. But all in all, we'll still be playing baseball out there."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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