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10/09/11 11:00 PM ET
With roof open, scoreboard lights up in Game 1
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- The Miller Park roof has garnered substantial attention since the start of the postseason. The decision whether to open it up has competitive-advantage implications, most notably because of how that choice alters decibels and shadows.
It was left open on Sunday for the National League Championship Series opener between the Cardinals and Brewers, as a pristine day left little excuse for any other option.
What ensued was a game that featured 15 runs and 10 extra-base hits, four of which came to rest on the other side of the outfield wall. Perhaps that should have been the expectation from two of the league's more prolific offenses. Or could the open roof have aided those carrying a bat?
"It seemed," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said, "like the ball was carrying pretty good today."
Coincidence or correlation remains the lingering question. Those who have played in this ballpark regularly get the question and still appear to be looking for a consensus on how a roof can affect trajectory. Arguments have been made that cover nearly every possibility.
That debate has not been clarified through numbers, either. A total of 171 home runs were hit at Miller Park this season. The average was 2.26 per game with the roof closed and 1.98 per game when the roof was left open. In other words, the difference isn't all that substantial.
There was also a minimal discrepancy in runs per game -- the average dips slightly when the Miller Park roof is open -- this year. Again, many refuse to enlist pure causation as any explanation.
"When it's warm, I think the ball carries similar whether the roof's open or closed," said outfielder Ryan Braun, who helped carry the Brewers to Sunday's 9-6 win with a two-run double and two-run homer. "I think, when it's cold, it definitely carries better when the roof is closed."
As relayed on the TBS telecast of Game 1, Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio is among those who buys into a correlation -- and he says he has the numbers to prove it. In talking to TBS reporter Craig Sager, Attanasio said a study concluded that the ball carries better when the roof and side panels are open. If the roof is closed but the panels left open, Attanasio said the ball dies more easily.
Still, the Brewers entered Sunday's game with identical records this season (postseason games included) when games were played under a closed roof or an open one. Milwaukee was 30-12 in both conditions.
All three of the NL Division Series games in Milwaukee were played with the roof closed. That series produced seven home runs, five of which came off the bats of Arizona hitters. Sunday's contest featured four long balls, with all but one sending Bernie Brewer down his yellow outfield slide.
By the end of the fifth, there was no disputing that, roof conspiracy theories aside, this was an afternoon for the offenses.
"I thought the ball was carrying well today, even on [David] Freese's home run, I didn't know if it was going to get out or not," Braun said. "But the ball was carrying good."
Count Freese and Roenicke among those also initially unsure if Freese's ball would clear the right-center-field wall. Freese hit an outside pitch off the end of the bat, driving it to the opposite field.
"I got a pitch to hit, and I had enough backspin on it to get it out of here," said Freese, who now has two homers this postseason. "It just kept going a little bit, and crept over the wall."
Braun's first-inning homer -- a 463-foot shot -- would have been a home run in any environment, though his double in the fifth did seem to travel further than anticipated.
Prince Fielder had a blast that was more of the line-drive variety, getting over the wall within seconds. The final home run of the game came off Yuniesky Betancourt's bat. It, too, seemed to carry better than usual.
"If we have our bats going and they have their bats going, it's going to be a lot of runs," Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols said. "But you also have some good pitchers in this series, and great bullpens. We'll see at the end of the day what the scoreboard says."