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Orioles fall to Red Sox, split four-game series

Orioles fall to Red Sox, split four-game series

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The next time the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox meet, summer will be winding down and football season will almost be here.

Until then, each team will do its best to be in contention when the next series between these AL East foes gets under way.

Andrew Benintendi hit two home runs, Chris Sale pitched six innings to earn his sixth straight win and Boston beat Baltimore 7-3 Sunday for a split of the four-game series.

The Red Sox broke a sixth-inning tie by scoring two unearned runs on a throwing error by catcher Francisco Pena, and Benintendi's second homer made it 6-3 in the seventh.

With the victory, the Red Sox improved to 6-7 against the Orioles. Nearly a quarter of Boston's first 56 games were against Baltimore, but the teams won't play again until Aug. 25.

That's why the Red Sox were delighted to win the final two games to get a split.

"We're neck-and-neck with this team and this division is going to be bunched up for the foreseeable future," Boston manager John Farrell said. "To get out of here even instead of being down 3-1, it's a big swing day for us."

Speaking of big swings, Benintendi hit two solo shots before adding an RBI single in the ninth. It was the first career multihomer game for the rookie, who entered in a 1-for-21 skid.

"He has a gift of being a very even-tempered guy," Farrell said. "Through these couple of dry spells, he's kept his head on his shoulders."

MORE BASEBALL: 2017 MLB POWER RANKINGS

Sale (7-2) struck out nine to increase his major-league leading total to 119. The left-hander is 6-0 in his last seven starts, a streak that began with a win over Baltimore on May 2.

His outing came on the heels of a similarly effective outing by David Price on Saturday night.

"Winning those first two games and trying to take a shot at those two guys, it's a challenge," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Chris Tillman (1-3) kept the Orioles even until the sixth. After a single and two walks loaded the bases with one out, Sandy Leon struck out. With Deven Marrero at the plate, Tillman bounced an 0-2 pitch that glanced off Pena's shoulder and into his glove.

As Mitch Moreland edged down the line, Pena launched a throw that sailed wide of third base, allowing Moreland and Jackie Bradley Jr. to score.

"I just tried to be too quick, tried to put a perfect throw, and I messed it up," Pena said.

After Boston jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, Sale yielded three runs and three hits in the bottom half. Chris Davis drove in two runs with an opposite-field single to left and scored on a double by Jonathan Schoop, the first of his three hits.

"I really had to kind of refocus after that and not let my emotions get the best of me," Sale said.

Benintendi tied it with his sixth home run, the first in 81 at-bats since May 7.

500 MILESTONE

Boston leadoff batter Mookie Betts got his 500th career hit with a swinging bunt to open the game. He is the seventh Red Sox player in the last 100 years to reach the 500-mark before his 25th birthday.

GRAND FINALE

Veteran broadcaster Fred Manfra called his final game, bringing an end to a 25-year run with the Orioles. A native of East Baltimore, Manfra grew up listening to Hall of Fame broadcaster Chuck Thompson and joined the Orioles radio team in 1993.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: LHP Brian Johnson left his Triple A start on Saturday night with a cramp in his right hamstring. He's an option to fill the void in the rotation left by Eduardo Rodriguez being placed on the disabled list.

Orioles: C Welington Castillo (testicular injury) played catch in the outfield. He's eligible to come off the DL on June 10, but not before a rehabilitation assignment. "You don't want to test it out in a big league game," Showalter said.

MORE BASEBALL: 2017 MLB POWER RANKINGS

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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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