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09/23/09 1:03 AM ET

Citi Field a boon to Castillo, Murphy

New York (65-87) vs. Atlanta (81-70), 7:10 p.m. ET

NEW YORK -- Through much of its inaugural season, Citi Field has been branded a pitcher's ballpark.

Especially when compared to the new jewel of the Bronx, Citi Field's expansive dimensions and high outfield walls seem designed to minimize offense. But that is true only to an extent. Although Citi Field has yielded only 128 home runs -- ranking 11th among National League ballparks -- a bigger outfield has led to more success for contact hitters.

Enter Luis Castillo and Daniel Murphy.

Castillo leads the National League with his .370 average at home, 119 points higher than his .251 on the road. Perhaps the most telling indicator, though, of Citi's effect on Castillo is the difference in his batting average on balls in play, or BABIP. Castillo's BABIP at Citi Field is an astounding .408, dwarfing his .286 BABIP on the road.

The stats suggest that the Castillo has been able to exploit the wider outfield gaps and the increased depth required of the outfielders in a bigger outfield at Citi Field. His numbers jump off the page even more considering what they were during a disappointing 2008 season. Castillo batted only .235 at Shea Stadium with a BABIP of just .252. His road numbers -- a .253 average and a .280 BABIP -- are roughly equivalent to this season.

"Luis has been tremendously focused since he left here last year. He has had his mind set on having a big year and staying focused on doing that," manager Jerry Manuel said. "What has surprised me is he has sustained his level of hitting for a long period of time. I thought there would be somewhat of a drop-off, which there hasn't been."

Castillo isn't the only one taking advantage of space in the outfield. First baseman Daniel Murphy has been one of the Mets' most reliable hitters over the past two months. Murphy is batting 56 points higher at Citi Field than on the road, in large part because his BABIP is 49 points higher at home. He, too, has started finding the gap -- especially in right-center field -- and turning it into an extra-base hit opportunity. Thrity-one of Murphy's team-leading 51 extra-base hits have come at home.

"I'm just trying to square the ball up as best I can, especially in right-center -- this park rewards you for that," Murphy said. "There's a lot of space out there."

That extra space helps explain why the Mets have maintained such a high team batting average even as they have suffered significant and sustained losses to their Opening Day lineup. The Mets' have hit .270 as a team, good for second in the National League behind only the playoff-bound Dodgers. The Mets hit six points better at home than on the road (.273 to .267), which mirrors the difference between their respective BABIPs (.311 at home to .305 on the road).

Still, the Mets' two best hitters by almost any measure -- David Wright and Carlos Beltran -- haven't benefited quite as much from the new ballpark. Both have higher BABIPs and, consequently, higher batting averages on the road. It's possible that the deeper outfield in Flushing has changed home runs at Shea into long outs at Citi.

Pitching matchup
NYM: RHP Mike Pelfrey (10-11, 5.10 ERA)
Pelfrey was pedestrian his last time out, against the Nationals on Friday, allowing five runs (four earned) on eight hits in seven innings. Two of those eight hits were two-run home runs by Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Bard, respectively, which helped push Pelfrey's record under .500 for the year. While Pelfrey's career struggles against the Marlins have been well-documented, it's actually the Braves who have given him the most trouble. In nine career games against Atlanta, Pelfrey is 2-4 with a 6.29 ERA -- his second-highest ERA against a National League team. Pelfrey was battered around in his last start against the Braves, giving up a career-high nine earned runs in 4 1/3 innings in an 11-0 loss.

ATL: RHP Tim Hudson (1-1, 3.70 ERA)
Hudson retired the first 10 Phillies batters he faced on Friday night but was then damaged by the power of Ryan Howard, whose two homers accounted for the three runs the Braves right-hander allowed in seven innings. Four starts into his return from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, Hudson finds himself still searching for consistent control. Still, two blown saves are all that separate him from winning each of his first three starts.

Middle infielder Alex Cora underwent successful surgery on his left thumb to repair a torn ligament on Monday. Cora had the same surgery on his right thumb five weeks ago. ... The Mets wore pinstriped jerseys with "Los Mets" across their chests as part of Hispanic Heritage Night. ... Castillo's average in his past 25 games at Citi Field is .435. ... Nelson Figueroa threw a career-high 126 pitches in his seven innings. It's one pitch shy of the Mets' high for the season, established in Livan Hernandez's complete game win over the Nationals on May 26. ... Brian Schneider had two or more hits for the third time in his last four starts.

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Up next
• Thursday: Off-day
• Friday: Mets (Tim Redding, 3-6, 5.25) at Marlins (Ricky Nolasco, 12-9, 5.34), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Mets (John Maine, 6-5, 4.13) at Marlins (Sean West, 7-6, 4.85), 7:10 p.m. ET

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.