Diamondbacks feel ready for raucous Phillies environment: ‘That’s the fun part, right?’
Oct 14, 2023, 12:20 PM | Updated: 2:21 pm
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
PHOENIX — Chase Field was blaring loud on Friday without a single fan in attendance. The artificial crowd noise at field level was a constant during the Arizona Diamondbacks’ scrimmage before heading to Philadelphia to face the Phillies in the National League Championship Series starting Monday.
You could hear it clearly from the gates outside. The Phillies are 26-11 at Citizens Bank Park in the postseason since it opened in 2004, the best playoff record for a home baseball team.
D-backs Game 2 starter Merrill Kelly knows what it is like being at a Phillies playoff game within Citizens Bank Park. He took his brother to Game 3 of the World Series last year when Philadelphia grabbed a 2-1 series lead with five home runs against the Houston Astros.
“I’ve seen them probably as loud as they can possibly be,” Kelly said. “They hit five homers that game so I have a hard time believing anything I’m about to experience is louder than that.”
Closer Paul Sewald is a former member of Philadelphia’s NL East rival, the New York Mets, so he’s familiar with the set up Arizona’s relievers will endure.
Fans are right on top of the away bullpen.
“There’s a little inlet there that I think a lot of us are going to spend a lot of our time in away from the fans.” Sewald said. “I’ve been there like more than a half-dozen times. When you go from a New York team, they really are not excited to have you. This is the postseason, it’s gonna be different. I think I’m going to spend a lot of time in the inlet.”
The Diamondbacks are 5-0 this postseason with four wins on the road. They outscored the Brewers in Milwaukee 11-5 in two games and the Dodgers in Los Angeles 15-4 in a pair of wins.
Philadelphia has not lost at home this postseason, and their fans had a lot to say about the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.
That series had plenty of bulletin board material for an already renowned rowdy crowd. Braves ace Spencer Strider joked that he preferred no fans at games before the postseason started. Shortstop Orlando Arcia poked fun at Phillies star Bryce Harper by exclaiming “Atta boy, Harper” in the clubhouse after he was doubled off to end Game 2.
Phillies fans had a field day with these seemingly insignificant moments, prepared with signs and shirts ready to mock the Braves. The NLCS won’t have the added headline of division foes battling, but the D-backs are expecting the most extreme environment to play in, and many are excited.
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“Everyone says it’s kind of intimidating, but I feel like that’s the fun part, right?” Kelly said. “That’s why we’re here. We do it for the fans … I feel like even if they’re yelling at you, as long as there’s 40,000-50,000 people in the stands, that’s what we get excited for.”
First baseman Christian Walker went to Phillies games growing up in the area, although he’s never seen a playoff game at Citizens Bank Park.
“The sports fan in me is so excited,” Walker said. “Talking about potentially one of the best, maybe the best, postseason environments in baseball, not a lot other stadiums and atmospheres come to mind. It’s what you think about when you’re a kid hitting fake home runs out in the backyard and making fake crowd noise.”
Third baseman Evan Longoria is in the unique position of having seen Philadelphia in the World Series back in 2008 as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Phillies swept the Rays to win the title, and Longoria said it was half a lifetime ago for him. He mentioned the experience will be eye-opening for the D-backs but Arizona has handled itself in tough environments.
Arizona took out the Dodgers’ home-field advantage by pilling on runs early and playing ahead all series. A stadium can only get so loud when the visitor is in control.
“What we did in L.A., jumping out to early leads, making the crowd uncomfortable and kind of taking them out of it … that does make it a little bit easier, taking some pressure off the pitching, trying to jump out ahead, all of those things and understanding the nerves will be there, that’s a natural reaction,” Longoria said. “I think our guys have done a really good job embracing how chaotic the playoffs can be and the wild nature of of playing on the road.”
Atlanta did not have a lead in Philadelphia for long, and the Phillies have a lineup filled with power threats who can change a game with one swing. Harper hit two home runs in Game 3, and Nick Castellanos blasted two in both Games 3 and 4.
Manager Torey Lovullo said if his club was going to be “glassy-eyed,” he would have seen it in Milwaukee. That was the first playoff experience for much of his club, but he didn’t see the players fazed by the moment even with their youth.
The Diamondbacks will come back to Chase Field for Games 3-5 after a sellout crowd celebrated Arizona’s sweep of the Dodgers on Wednesday. That was a different Chase Field environment than many of these Diamondbacks have ever seen before.
“That was loud, it was hard to hear my pitch comm there and that’s a good problem to have,” Sewald said. “The Bank is gonna be a home-field advantage for them. I would like Chase to be home-field advantage for us when we get back here.”