Pitchers for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros are complaining about the feel of the 2017 World Series baseballs. "The World Series ball is slicker," pitcher Justin Verlander, whose Astros are up 3-2 in the series and who starts on the mound for Game 6 on Tuesday, told Sports Illustrated. "No doubt ... 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."
The slicker balls are having a noticeable effect on the game, pitchers claim. The Dodgers' Yu Darvish "threw 14 sliders and did not get a single swing and miss on the pitch" in Game 3, Sports Illustrated writes. "It was the first time in 34 starts this year that Darvish did not get a swing and miss on his slider." In Darvish's own words: "I had trouble with the ball throwing a slider. It was slicker."
While ball-juicing conspiracies are a perennial complaint in baseball, the 2017 World Series has seen an astronomical rise in home runs. Game 5 on Sunday had seven dingers, adding to a record World Series total of 22 home runs — already. The 2002 World Series previously had the most home runs for the championship series, with 21 homers in seven games between the Anaheim Angels and the San Francisco Giants.
MLB's senior vice president of baseball operations, Peter Woodfork, said the league has done nothing to change the balls. "The only difference is the gold stamping on the baseballs," he said of the ink, which in the regular season is blue. But Sports Illustrated obtained World Series baseballs and agrees — something's fishy. Read the full investigation here, and why more home runs might not a good thing in baseball at The Week.