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Playoff Gameday Thread #24: Best of three

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A crucial game in Houston, the sides having split the first four games evenly. But are the baseballs playing a role?

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

5:20 pm: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Houston Astros (2-2)

Today's Lineups

LOS ANGELES DODGERS HOUSTON ASTROS
Chris Taylor - CF George Springer - CF
Corey Seager - SS Alex Bregman - 3B
Justin Turner - DH Jose Altuve - 2B
Enrique Hernandez - LF Carlos Correa - SS
Cody Bellinger - 1B Yulieski Gurriel - 1B
Logan Forsythe - 3B Josh Reddick - RF
Yasiel Puig - RF Evan Gattis - DH
Austin Barnes - C Marwin Gonzalez - LF
Charlie Culberson - 2B Brian McCann - C
Clayton Kershaw - LHP Dallas Keuchel - LHP

Clayton Kershaw (LHP, 18-4, 2.31) vs. Dallas Keuchel (LHP, 14-5, 2.90). Big controversy today, on the back of a Sports Illustrated piece, in which Tom Verducci lays out the evidence for a change in the baseballs having led to the surge in home-runs. Based on the data, it appears to be having a particular impact on those who throw sliders, with the pitch not breaking so much, and therefore proving easier to hit. Both sides believe “the baseballs used in the World Series are slicker than the ones used in the regular season because of a difference in the grain of the leather.” The results explain in particular Ken Giles’s post-season struggles, as he’s especially reliant on his slider.

It’s quite a claim, and really quite disturbing to think that a unilateral, unannounced alteration could basically end up deciding the result of the World Series. MLB has, of course, denied any such change, but reading the article, the evidence does seem compelling. When both pitching coaches say they have noticed the difference, and the Astros’ Charlie Morton says, “Lance McCullers took the blindfold test in the bullpen. He could tell which ball was which with his eyes closed. It’s that different,” it certainly appears to merit investigation. However, I confidently expect MLB to do absolutely nothing. Because the fans love offense, amIrite?