Astros pitchers say World Series baseballs are fueling homer binge

Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander catches a ball during warmups. Verlander and fellow pitcher Dallas Keuchel have complained about the baseballs used during the World Series.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

Houston ace Justin Verlander, who is scheduled to start Game 6 on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, said he believes the baseballs being used in the World Series are slicker than those used during the regular season. He said it was one reason the Dodgers and Astros combined for a record 15 home runs in the first four games.

“All you can ask for is consistency,” Verlander said. “Over the years the numbers speak for themselves.”

Astros teammate Dallas Keuchel, who started Game 5 Sunday, also complained about the baseballs after the Astros’ Game 2 victory.


“Obviously the balls are juiced,” he said.

Verlander, a six-time all-star, pushed the issue during a news conference before Sunday’s game when he said he doubted commissioner Rob Manfred’s statement that the baseballs remain within long-standing specifications.

“I think there’s enough information out there to say that’s not true,” Verlander said.

“On one hand,” the former Cy Young Award winner continued, “you can have somebody that manufactures the ball [say] they’re not different. And on the other hand you can [have] the people that have held a ball in their hand their entire life, saying it’s different. You value one over the other. Take your pick.”

MLB spokesperson Pat Courtney responded by saying: “World Series baseballs are tested at the time of manufacturing and are made from the same materials and to the same specifications as regular season baseballs. The only difference is the gold stamping on the baseballs.”

Verlander acknowledged that since the same balls are being used for both teams, there was a fair playing field.

“I don’t think it’s the case of one pitcher saying, ‘Hey, something is different here,’ ” Verlander said. “I think as a whole everybody is saying, ‘Whoa, something is a little off here.’”

Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill has often noted the impact slick baseballs can have in creating blisters but said he noticed nothing wrong with the World Series balls. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts agreed, saying the balls felt normal to him. He suggested warm weather in the first two games in Los Angeles may have contributed to the inflated home run numbers.

“It’s hard to argue the numbers,” he said. “You know there’s more velocity. Guys are swinging harder.”

Giles’ failings

Ken Giles was scored on just once in his final 19 regular season appearances. In the postseason, Giles has been scored on it six of seven outings.

In the World Series, he’s allowed five runs and recorded five outs.

No reliever has ever been scored upon more frequently in one postseason, and Houston manager A.J. Hinch said Giles’ role, which used to be closer, is now uncertain.

“I’ll try to lift the burden off of him carrying this end-of-the-game pressure with him,” Hinch said. “Obviously, he’s had a rough go of it. He’s more than equipped to handle it. And I’m not sure how the game is going to play out.

“If I’ve got to give him the ball at some point, he’s got the weapons to get outs.”

Gurriel expecting boos

The slant-eyed gesture made by Yuli Gurriel aimed at Dodgers starter Yu Darvish, who is part Japanese — earned a five-game suspension, which the Astros first baseman will serve at the start of next season.

Despite the penalty and Gurriel’s apology, the Astros are expecting an aggressive reception when they return to Dodger Stadium for Game 6 on Tuesday.

“I think everyone is aware it’s going to be a rough setting for him,” Hinch said. “I don’t think you can convince 55,000 fans to turn the page as fast as maybe the two teams have.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series

Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura