Juiced ball the­ory gains steam amid home run binge

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - RON­ALD BLUM

Home runs kept fly­ing over the wall at Minute Maid Park, on line drives up to­ward the train tracks, on fly balls that just dropped over the fence.

Seven more were hit in Game 5, rais­ing the to­tal to a World Se­ries-record 22 — with pos­si­bly two more games to play. Twenty-five runs were scored in a game started by the Dodgers’ Clay­ton Ker­shaw and the Astros’ Dal­las Keuchel, Cy Young Award winners re­garded as among base­ball’s best.

Af­ter a sea­son when slug­gers out­paced even their steroid-era pre­de­ces­sors for home runs, some are con­vinced that some­thing is amiss with the base­balls.

“The main com­plaint is that the balls seem a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent in the post-sea­son and even from the post-sea­son to the World Se­ries balls,” Astros Game 6 starter Justin Ver­lan­der said. “They’re a lit­tle slick. You just deal with it. But I don’t think it’s the case of one pitcher say­ing, ‘Hey, some­thing is dif­fer­ent here.’ I think as a whole ev­ery­body is say­ing, ‘Whoa, some­thing is a lit­tle off here.’”

A record eight home runs were hit in Game 2, in­clud­ing five in ex­tra in­nings, and Game 5’s seven long balls would have tied the old mark. The 10-in­ning 13-12 Astros win Sun­day was the sec­ond-high­est scor­ing game in World Se­ries his­tory.

“I haven’t per­son­ally no­ticed any­thing. I haven’t tried to think about it ei­ther,” Dodgers re­liever Bran­don Mor­row said af­ter giv­ing up two homers in Game 5.

Same for Ker­shaw, even af­ter giv­ing up his record eighth homer of the post-sea­son Sun­day.

“I don’t re­ally pay at­ten­tion to it,” Ker­shaw said.

“I just as­sume that both sides are deal­ing with it, so I’m not go­ing to worry about it.”

The long-ball as­sault tops the 21 of the 2002 Se­ries. Ana­heim hit seven and Barry Bonds and his San Fran­cisco Giants slugged 14 over seven games. That was the year be­fore sur­vey drug test­ing.

Spec­u­la­tion that some­thing has changed in­cludes a study claim­ing to have found dif­fer­ences in the size and seam height of balls since the 2015 all-star break.

Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred in­sists noth­ing ne­far­i­ous is go­ing on.

“I’m ab­so­lutely con­fi­dent that the balls that we’re us­ing are within our es­tab­lished spec­i­fi­ca­tions,” he said Fri­day.

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