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Record Home Runs in April

Updated:
Just pity the poor pitchers: For them, it was the cruelest April ever.

Batters hit 931 homers, a record for the month and 195 more than last April, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, baseball's official statistician.

``I don't like it. I think it's taken away a lot from the game,'' Atlanta pitcher Tom Glavine said. ``I feel like what Mac and Sammy did two years ago should be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. I'm not so sure it's going to be. I think it's definitely tarnished the image or the excitement associated with the home run.''

Hitters didn't quite reach the record for any month — 980 last May.

Not including the four hit in March during the Mets-Cubs series in Japan, there's been an average of 2.56 homers per game, up 15 percent from the average of 2.22 last April. The previous record for April was 826 in 1996.

By comparison, there was an average of 1.38 homers in April 1968, the year offense dropped so low that owners lowered the mound from 15 inches to 10 after the season.

``It's not a good time for pitchers, there's no doubt,'' the Dodgers' Kevin Brown said. ``There are a lot of ways to get hurt out there, the way the ball's flying.''

The biggest change has been in Houston. In 1999, homers at the Astrodome averaged 1.54 per game. In the first 12 games at new Enron Field, there have been 46 home runs, an average of 3.83. That's even higher than April's 3.10 average in 10 games at Coors Field, until now baseball's most prominent bandbox.

Houston's Jose Lima gave up eight homers in three starts covering 17 innings. Chris Holt allowed four in two starts.

Jermaine Dye of the Kansas City Royals led the majors in April with 11 homers, while San Francisco's Barry Bonds, Atlanta's Andres Galarraga and the Dodgers' Gary Sheffield shared the NL lead with 10. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa each hit eight.

``The poor pitchers go home at night and turn on ESPN and there's 28 minutes of balls reaching the seats,'' Kansas City manager Tony Muser said. ``The mindset of the game today is try to pound the other team into oblivion and win 12-11, and say, `Man, what a ballgame!'''

Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco averaged 2.5 homers per game, identical to last year's April average at 3Com Park, the Giants' old field.

Only Comerica Park in Detroit has been a pitcher's friend among the new sites. This year's average was 1.36, down 36 percent from last year's average of 2.11 at Tiger Stadium.

``It's one thing for the legitimate home-run hitters to be going out there and doing it,'' Glavine said, ``but it's everybody else that makes you kind of wonder what the heck's going on.''

Some say it's due to stronger batters or the lowered quality of pitching due to expansion. New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine says that hitting has improved so much that pitchers sometimes are afraid to throw strikes.

``The players are bigger and stronger,'' Tampa Bay's Vinny Castilla said. ``It's not just the pitching.''

Commissioner Bud Selig says he isn't concerned about the increase, and that as far as major league baseball can determine, the ball isn't any different.

``Over the past 20-25 years, I think it's pretty obvious that something has changed in that period of time,'' Brown said. ``There's no doubt when you stand around and you watch balls jump off guys' bats in BP and during the game.''

``I can't remember seeing so many guys hit home runs the other way,'' Cleveland manager Charlie Manuel said. ``It used to be you could pitch a guy on the outside part of the plate and not worry about it hurting you. Not anymore.''
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