Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz.
HOUSTON (AP) — 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 two possible 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 postseason, and even from the postseason to the World Series balls,” Justin Verlander said Sunday, two days before he takes the mound in Game 6 and tries to pitch the Astros to their first title. “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 13-12, 10-inning Astros’ win Sunday night was the second-highest scoring game in Series history.
Keuchel was quoted as saying after Game 2: “Obviously, the balls are juiced.”
Not so obvious to everyone, even amid the power surge.
“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. “It’s not something you want to put in your own head.”
Same for Kershaw, even after giving up his record eighth homer of the postseason 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.”
This year’s long ball assault topped 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 AllStar break.
“I know there was talk about different sizes and some of the baseballs were slightly bigger and some were smaller. Some of the seams were higher, some of the seams were lower. But, no, it’s been consistent,” said Rich Hill, who will start Game 6 for the Dodgers. “I think that just has to do with conditions — if it’s colder it’s going to be slicker. If it’s a little bit warmer out or humid, I think you’re going to find that you’re going to have a little bit more of moisture to the baseballs.”
Baseball 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.
Verlander rejected that assertion.
“I know Mr. Manfred said the balls haven’t changed, but I think there’s enough information out there to say that’s not true,” he said.
Verlander also does not think it’s an issue of how balls are rubbed up before games.
“I know baseball uses the same mud for every single ball for every single game that’s played,” he said. “I think there’s a broader issue that we’re all missing.”
On the day he become commissioner in January 2015, Manfred said, “I’m cognizant in the drop in offense over the last five years, and it’s become a topic of conversation in the game, and it’s something that we’re going to have to continue to monitor and study.”
AP PHOTO/CHARLIE RIEDEL Los Angeles Dodgers’ Joc Pederson hits a three-run home run off Houston Astros relief pitcher Joe Musgrove during the ninth inning of Game 4 of baseball’s World Series on Saturday in Houston.
A baseball is seen before Game 5 of baseball’s World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday in Houston. AP