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    Roof open or closed, Dodgers pitcher Lance Lynn likes Arizona’s Chase Field
    • October 11, 2023

    The last time Lance Lynn started a game at Chase Field, he was wearing a Team USA uniform in the World Baseball Classic. It was March, and his opponent was a Canadian team featuring Dodgers teammate Freddie Freeman and few other major league hitters.

    The last time Lynn pitched at Chase Field in a major league setting, he wore a Texas Rangers uniform. It was April 2019 and the Arizona Diamondbacks’ lineup featured exactly two players still active for them in the National League Division Series, Christian Walker and Ketel Marte.

    The game was notable in one regard: the roof was open, a peculiar quirk for a park that historically plays in a pitcher’s favor when the roof is closed. On this day, Lynn allowed only one run over six innings in a 5-2 Rangers victory.

    Excluding the WBC, Lynn has pitched in Phoenix three times with the roof open (15 innings, five earned runs allowed) and three times with the roof closed (18 innings, seven earned runs allowed). He is unusually averse to the historical effects of Chase Field’s roof.

    “It’s a good ballpark,” Lynn said Tuesday. “The fans, they’re always into the game. For me, the mound’s got a good feel to it. So when you get on the mound you feel comfortable with, you’ve got to make pitches, execute. Out here, I’ve done that for the most part.”

    The Dodgers expect the roof to be open when Lynn starts Game 3 of the NLDS on Wednesday. The forecast calls for sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s – only a shade cooler than it was on Sept. 29, the last time the roof was open in Phoenix for a game between the D-backs and Houston Astros.

    Historically, the roof has mattered a lot. In 2002, then-Diamondbacks pitcher Curt Schilling was convinced that fly balls were carrying farther to left field. So he asked the team owner, Jerry Colangelo, to close the roof for each of his starts.

    Schilling got his wish “until the club was flooded with e-mails and phone calls from angry fans,” the AP reported at the time. From then on, the weather – not the starting pitcher – would dictate whether or not the roof would be closed at game time.

    One study of Chase Field’s roof effects looked at every Diamondbacks plate appearance from 1998-2015 and determined that on-base plus slugging percentage (.802 to .761) and runs per game (5.08 to 4.56) were higher with the roof open than closed.

    Then, prior to the 2018 season, the Diamondbacks installed a humidor at their home park in an effort to normalize the run-scoring environment. The effect has been dramatic.

    With the roof closed in 2023, Chase Field was the third-hardest domed stadium (out of MLB’s eight enclosed ballparks) to score in, according to Statcast. Only T-Mobile Park in Seattle was less homer-friendly with a closed roof.

    In theory, that’s a big deal. No pitcher allowed more home runs in 2023 than Lynn (44 homers in 32 starts). The Dodgers have yet to see a starting pitcher complete even two innings in the NLDS, and now face elimination in Game 3 down two games to none. Anything to help Lynn keep the ball in the ballpark should be a blessing. So, close the roof, right?

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    Dodgers to give Lance Lynn the ball in Game 3 of NLDS

    With the roof open in 2023, Chase Field was still the fourth-stingiest park for allowing home runs, according to Statcast. Only Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, Cleveland’s Progressive Field, and Houston’s Minute Maid Park were stingier. The overall scoring environment was boosted by a higher-than-expected number of triples and doubles, so Chase ranked ninth out of the 29 open-air facilities in hitter-friendliness, according to Statcast.

    But for a pitcher burned often by home runs, there is perhaps no better park to start in.

    “As part of the math, yeah, Arizona doesn’t play as homer-friendly as it used to,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Friday, on the eve of the NLDS. “We’ve got some guys, some fly-ball guys, so to know the longball is suppressed a little in that ballpark doesn’t hurt certain guys’ cases.”

    Ordinarily, Lynn’s 4-0 career record and 3.27 ERA at Chase Field might matter little, considering how long it’s been since he pitched there. But for a Dodgers team desperate for innings from their starter – and desperate for Lynn to keep the ball in the park – they can only hope what’s past is prologue.

    Dodgers pitcher Lance Lynn looks on from the dugout during a simulated game last week at Dodger Stadium. Lynn will be on the mound to start Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday night in Phoenix as the Dodgers try to avoid being eliminated. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

    ​ Orange County Register