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Orioles beat Rays in very weird baseball game

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USA Today Sports

Orioles beat Rays in very weird baseball game

BALTIMORE  -- First, Seth Smith circled the bases on a single.

Then, much later in a very strange game, he drove in the winning run without lifting the bat off his shoulder.

Smith drew a bases-loaded, four-pitch walk from Danny Farquhar to force in the deciding run with two outs in the 11th inning, and the Baltimore Orioles rallied to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 on Wednesday night.

The 4-hour, 8-minute contest featured a play more appropriate for the Little League -- or the Big Top.

The wacky sequence began when Smith singled with Ryan Flaherty on first. After Kevin Kiermaier threw wildly to third base from center field, starting pitcher Alex Cobb retrieved the ball near the Tampa Bay dugout. Cobb's errant throw to third hit Flaherty in the helmet and went into left field, allowing both runners to race home.

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"I was trying to steal second and he put the ball in play and it turned into a circus," Flaherty said.

Smith stopped at every base until a Tampa Bay miscue enabled him to move up an additional 90 feet.

"It was just a bad play," Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said. "We had the one mistake play with Cobb that cost us the two runs."

Manager Kevin Cash said: "That was a deflating inning. No doubt about it."

Tim Beckham hit two solo homers for the Tampa Bay, but he also made one of the Rays' three errors.

After Tampa Bay scored a run in the top of the 11th, the Orioles answered against closer Alex Colome (0-1). Two singles and a walk loaded the bases for Jonathan Schoop, who hit a sacrifice fly. Flaherty walked to reload the bases, and Farquhar entered and threw four pitches -- all outside the strike zone.

Colome hadn't given up a run this season, but proved vulnerable in his second inning of work.

"I asked a lot of Alex. There's no doubt about that," Cash said. "I knew I was stretching him. But you want your best guy out there when the game's on the line."

Alec Asher (1-0) got the win for the Orioles despite giving up an RBI single to Jesus Sucre in the 11th.

Baltimore took two of three from Tampa Bay and has not lost a series this season.

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"Being down in extra innings and coming back to win is always good for the morale and moving forward," Smith said.

Dylan Bundy gave up two runs and four hits in 6 1/3 innings for Baltimore. He left with a 3-2 lead, but the bullpen gave it up.

Down 3-2 in the eighth, Tampa Bay used a double, a hit batter and a walk to load the bases with no outs. Darren O'Day entered and got a force out at the plate before an infield out by Brad Miller tied it.

Cobb allowed three runs, two earned, and eight hits in five innings. Though he pitched decently, his one poor throw in the field proved costly.

Beckham's drive leading off the third ended Bundy's run of consecutive scoreless innings at 15. It was the first home run allowed by Bundy in five starts.

Beckham connected again in the fifth to bring Tampa Bay within 3-2.

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Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

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USA Today Sports

Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

BALTIMORE  -- Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman will wear No. 34 next season as a tribute to Roy Halladay, who was killed in a plane crash last month.

Gausman announced the switch Thursday on his Twitter account. The right-hander wore No. 39 last year.

Gausman and Halladay are both from Colorado, and the Orioles pitcher said he followed Halladay's career closely and idolized him.

In a post next a photo of his new jersey, Gausman wrote: "Roy gave me the inspiration that I could fulfill even my biggest of dreams -- being a pitcher just like him."

Gausman concluded: "The loss of Roy is tragic and saddening, but I feel honored to have watched everything he achieved."

Halladay died on Nov. 7 when his small plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He played 16 big league seasons, winning the Cy Young Award in each league and being named an All-Star eight times.

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Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

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USA TODAY Sports

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 All-Star 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."

Offense started rebounding during the second half of the season, and a record 6,105 home runs were hit this year, 2.4 percent more than the previous mark of 5,963 set in 2000 at the height of the Steroids Era.

"I think it's pretty clear," Verlander said. "I think our commissioner has said publicly that they wanted more offense in the game. I'm pretty sure I'm not fabricating a quote here when I say that. I think it was already All-Star break of `15, or right before, when he said that."

San Francisco's Johnny Cueto and Toronto's Marcus Stroman also think the balls have changed, with Stroman blaming slick balls for a rise in pitcher blisters -- an affliction which has struck Hill a few times in the past couple seasons, too.

Houston's Brent Strom and the Dodgers' Rick Honeycutt, the World Series pitching coaches, both were quoted by Sports Illustrated on Sunday as saying the slickness of the ball made throwing sliders difficult.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I don't see a ton difference, but I'm not going to get in a verbal war with coaches and players who think otherwise."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had a similar view but acknowledged the power records got his attention.

"The pitchers talk about it feels different in their hand. The one component is the slickness and guys at different ballparks rub it up differently," he said. "Sort of feels the same to me. But it's hard to argue the numbers. You know there's more velocity. Guys are swinging harder. I know in Los Angeles the air was light. It was hot. The ball was flying, carrying more than typically. But I hesitate to try to give you any insight because I really don't know."

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