Home run pace slows at new Yankee Stadium

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NEW YORK (AP) — New Yankee Stadium no longer is playing like a bandbox.

While 21 home runs were hit in the five first games last year during the $1.5 billion ballpark’s first season, just 11 balls have gone over the fence during the first five games this season.

“Early on I felt like last year obviously the ball was really, really carrying,” Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte said Saturday. “But then what we noticed toward the end of the year is depending on where the wind’s blowing, you can’t hit it out of here sometimes. And obviously I think you’ve seen that already a couple times this homestand, when that wind is blowing in, that flag is blowing in from left, that ball just really, really gets held up.”

Home runs were hit in 80 of 81 games at Yankees Stadium last year, the first major league stadium with home runs in all but one regular-season game. New York became the first team to go deep in 73 home games.

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The only game without a home run at Yankee Stadium was on June 18, when the Washington Nationals won 3-0 after a 5-hour, 26-minute rain delay at the start.

Already this year there have been two games without a homer — on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels and on Friday night against the Texas Rangers.

“Guys have been making good pitches and going about their business the right way. I don’t think I’ve noticed any difference at all,” Joba Chamberlain said. “I guess at the end of the season we’ll see how everything compares, but I don’t think it’s any different.”

Before the June 18 game, an average of 3.5 homers per game were hit. It dwindled to 2.5 per game for the remainder of the season.

“It played different after the six weeks,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Yankee Stadium finished its first season with a major league-leading 237 home runs, tied for the 18th-most during one season at a big league ballpark. A record 303 homers were hit at Denver’s Coors Field in 1999.

New York hit 136 home runs at home, matching the eighth-highest total in major league history. Texas set the record with 153 at Ameriquest Field in 2005.

“Last year it was just early, we had winds that were ripping straight out, and now what we’ve got is we’ve got winds that are going dead in.” Pettitte said. “So it’s definitely to left field I believe has played a lot different on this homestand than it did on the first couple of homestands last year. Toward the end of the season last year, I felt like it really started playing pretty fair. Right field is short. that’s all there is to it. But the rest of the ballpark plays actually pretty big.”

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