ARLINGTON, Texas — Now for the scary part.
That Rangers team that chewed up and spit out the Rays in the first two games of the division series? Yeah, well, supposedly that was Rangers Lite, the less-filling, watered-down version of the AL West champs.
Here comes the home version, which has put up numbers that could make the Rays faithful lose faith. The team went 51-30 at Rangers Ballpark — the fourth-best home record in the American League.
"Maybe it's an element of comfort," Rangers outfielder David Murphy said. "Obviously, we like to hit in this ballpark."
More like mash. Josh Hamilton hit 22 of his 32 homers at home. Vladamir Guerrero hit 31 points higher at home. Nelson Cruz hit a whopping 104 points higher. Michael Young hit .307 with 16 homers and 55 RBIs at home compared to .260/5/36 on the road. As a team, the Rangers hit .288 at home, .265 on the road.
A quick tour of the ballpark: It's deep in left, but a short rightfield porch looks like heaven to left-handed power hitters. The grass berm beyond centerfield, where kids are often seen dashing for home run balls, is the perfect backdrop for a batter's eye. A tall office building in dead center creates a swirling wind.
Combine all that with warm temperatures and it can sometimes make for home run derby.
"The ball flies," Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton said. "The ballpark is built for balls that get in the air to get out … especially to right-center."
Though it's October, temperatures are expected to be around 90 degrees this afternoon for the start of Game 3.
"Playing a day game," Rangers outfielder Jeff Francouer said, "means the ball will jump a bit."
That could be bad news for the Rays. Then again, the Rays get to bat, too.
"It's not quite as cool as I expected it to be, so the ball has a little bit more carry in the warmer air … And, of course, they just hit well here historically," Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "It really doesn't change the way you pitch, but it just may change the outcome of a game because a fly ball that would normally be an out at our ballpark maybe goes for a home run or extra bases here."
The Rays have to figure out a way to take two in a row in a park where the Rangers lost back-to-back games only seven times all season, including twice in the final month when Texas had a huge lead in its division.
"This," Murphy said, "is exactly where we want to be right now."