Wednesday afternoon's 10-5 Yankees loss gave birth to a question that may never be answered.
Did the Braves and Yankees combine to hit a Stadium-record nine home runs on Wednesday because of the heat, the design of the Stadium or the quality (take that any way you like it) of the two pitchers? Arguments could be made on all fronts.
The heat, with the addition of a slight breeze out to right and relative lack of humidity, can make for air conducive to spheres soaring through the air at fantastic rates. It also can take something out of the men pitching the ball, turning what might normally be good pitches into hangers that are ripe for mashing into the bleachers.
Blaming it on the heat ignores the fact that this ballpark has never been stingy about home runs in the past. There have been three previous games with eight total home runs, many of which have been hit into the notorious short porch in right field that welcomed five of Wednesday's homers, including excuse me shots by Alex Rodriguez and Jason Heyward that would have been loud outs in most stadiums.
The Stadium can't serve up the home runs all by itself, though, and that means we must include the work of Phil Hughes and Tommy Hanson to the mix. Hanson came into the game having allowed 10 homers on the season, which isn't great but still paled in comparison to the 15 allowed by Hughes.
It's 19 now, the second-most in all of baseball and both a continuation of and break with Hughes' recent past. Hughes only has one start without allowing a homer this season, his last one against the Nationals which was part of a string of improved results that came crashing to an end under the flurry of Atlanta longballs on Wednesday.
The question of whether this was a backslide for Hughes or just a bad day looms almost as large as the one about where all of these home runs came from, although we will find out the Hughes answer soon enough. The original question is doomed for the dustbin unless we have some way of replicating these conditions enough times to come to a scientific conclusion.
We don't need such painstaking controls to draw some other conclusions, though. Raul Ibanez got to bat against lefty Jonny Venters for the second straight game and, also for the second straight game, he made a key out (a double play on Wednesday, actually) to kill a rally.
You don't start Ibanez against lefties so it's probably not a good idea to let him hit against them in key moments when the game hang in the balance. Ibanez's double dip came in the sixth after the Yankees cut the Braves' lead to 6-4 and it set the stage for another painful double play an inning later.
Alex Rodriguez grounded into a double play to end the seventh after the Yankees moved within one run of Atlanta. The bullpen would make the final score look more lopsided, but this game was there for the Yankees' taking when A-Rod failed to come through.
We've wrung our hands enough about the Yankees' issues hitting with runners on base this season, so we'll take this opportunity to simply point out that A-Rod has hit just .231 this season when he hasn't hit a home run. His loss of power (six doubles all year) is alarming since there isn't much else propping it up offensively at this point in time.
At least he hit a home run on Wednesday. If the man with 640 career homers couldn't have launched one on a day like that, we'd be worried about what need there was for him at all.