Apparently Dallas Keuchel was onto something.
The Houston Astros pitcher raised eyebrows after Game 2 of the World Series when he insisted the baseballs being used in the series are “juiced.” He’s not the only one who feels that way, though.
Pitchers and coaches from both the Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers complained to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci after Saturday night’s Game 4 that the World Series baseballs are “slicker” than the ones used during the regular season. Those slicker balls, they claim, make it harder for pitchers to throw a good slider.
“(Dodgers Game 3 starter) Yu (Darvish) noticed the difference,” Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt told Verducci. “He told me the balls were slicker and he had trouble throwing the slider because of how slick they were. He wasn’t able to throw his slider the same way.”
Darvish allowed four runs in just 1 2/3 innings Friday in the Dodgers’ 5-3 loss at Minute Maid Park, one of which was a Marwin Gonzalez RBI single on a slider from the right-hander.
You could chalk this up to the losing team making excuses, but several Astros players also told Verducci they noticed a significant difference in grip with the World Series baseballs.
“The World Series ball is slicker. No doubt,” Houston ace Justin Verlander told Verducci. “I’m telling you, we’re in here signing (World Series) balls before the game, and it’s hard to get the ink on the ball sometimes.
“You know when you sign a receipt at Starbucks, and if you don’t hold the paper down with your hand, the pen just slides across the paper and the ink doesn’t stick to it? That’s what it’s like sometimes trying to sign these balls. That’s how slick the leather is.”
“(Astros pitcher) Lance McCullers took the blindfold test in the bullpen,” Charlie Morton, the Astros’ Game 4 starter, told Verducci. “He could tell which ball was which with his eyes closed. It’s that different.”
Verducci posted a photo of Houston pitching coach Brent Strom holding up a regular season baseball (left) and a World Series baseball (right), and there are visible differences.
It’s unclear if Major League Baseball will take action over this controversy, but it’s led to a pretty entertaining World Series to date: There already have been 15 home runs hit through four games, more than all but eight of the previous 112 World Series.
The series is tied 2-2 heading into Sunday’s Game 5 at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Thumbnail photo via Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images