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Smith HR in 7th breaks tie, carries Orioles past Rangers 3-1

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USA Today Sports

Smith HR in 7th breaks tie, carries Orioles past Rangers 3-1

Seth Smith hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning and the Baltimore Orioles used a strong performance by its struggling pitching staff to beat the Texas Rangers 3-1 Monday night.

Smith connected off Andrew Cashner (4-8) to make it 2-1, Baltimore's first lead since the All-Star break following a three-game sweep by the Chicago Cubs. Baltimore yielded 27 runs in that series, including 21 by the starters over 11 1/3 innings.

In this one, Chris Tillman allowed one run and two hits over six innings. It was the right-hander's best performance since his season debut on May 7, when he blanked the White Sox over five innings in what remains his only win over 12 starts.

Richard Bleier (2-1) pitched a scoreless seventh, Mychal Givens had a perfect eighth and Brad Brach completed the three-hitter for his 16th save.

Manny Machado went 3 for 3 and Welington Castillo had two hits and scored a run for the Orioles, who were coming off a 2-8 stretch that dropped them into a tie with Toronto in the AL East cellar.

Adrian Beltre had two hits for the Rangers to move within 18 of 3,000 for his career.

Texas took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when rookie Drew Robinson drew a two-out walk and scored on a double by Jonathan Lucroy, who was thrown out trying to make it a triple.

Baltimore pulled even in the sixth when Adam Jones walked, went to third on Machado's hit-and-run single and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jonathan Schoop.

TRADE WINDS

With the Orioles fading from contention, it's possible that closer Zach Britton could be dealt before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

"I'm not in any rush to go anywhere, but it's not my decision," he said. "If it happens I'll take it in stride. But I've been here since I was 18."

NO SHORT-CHANGING

Robinson, who started in left field for Texas, won't have to worry about playing shortstop anytime soon.

"We're not going to put that on him," manager Jeff Banister said. "He been at second, he's been at third, he's been at left, we know he can go out in center."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rangers: RHP Keone Kela (shoulder) will throw a bullpen session Tuesday and could return to game action as early as Thursday, though it's unclear whether that would be with Texas or on a rehab assignment, Banister said . RHP A.J. Griffin (left intercostal strain) will pitch Wednesday at Triple-A Round Rock . LHP Jake Diekman (ulcerative colitis surgery) threw long toss on Monday and expects to have his first bullpen session of the season Thursday.

Orioles: RHP Stefan Crichton (right shoulder strain) was reinstated from the 10-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Norfolk.

UP NEXT

Rangers: RHP Tyson Ross (2-1, 5.33 ERA) will start Tuesday night in the second game of the series. He's 0-2 with a 17.10 ERA in seven career appearances against Baltimore.

Orioles: Dylan Bundy (8-8, 4.33 ERA) makes his third start since June 24 and first since July 11.

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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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