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Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

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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."

RELATED: Nats set to hire Dave Martinez as new manager

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Orioles unable to punch in final run late against Rangers

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Orioles unable to punch in final run late against Rangers

BALTIMORE -- Ryan Rua had a tiebreaking, pinch-hit three-run homer in the seventh inning and the Texas Rangers held on to beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 Friday night to snap a three-game losing streak.

Cole Hamels (5-8) won for the first time in almost a month, allowing four runs and five hits with three strikeouts and one walk over 6 1/3 innings in a matchup of last-place teams.

Rua broke a 1-1 deadlock with the first pinch-hit of his career, off rookie Tanner Scott. Nomar Mazara added an RBI double later that inning, which made it 5-1 and boosted Scott's ERA from 5.88 to 6.84 over 26 appearances.

Baltimore pulled within a run on Caleb Joseph's three-run double against reliever Jose Leclerc in the bottom half of the inning. The Orioles loaded the bases in the eighth but Jake Diekman got out of the jam by getting Chris Davis on a short pop out.

Keone Kela got the last three outs for his 23rd save.

The Orioles have lost 17 of 20 and fell to 14-33 at Camden Yards, the second-worst home mark in the majors behind Kansas City.

Joey Gallo gave the Rangers the lead when he led off the fifth with a home run off Alex Cobb (2-12). The Orioles answered in the bottom half when Adam Jones hit a double just inside the left-field foul line and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Danny Valencia.

Cobb left his previous start against the Twins in the sixth inning with a blister on his right index finger. He did not appear hampered by the injury and allowed two runs and six hits with three strikeouts and no walks over 6 1/3 innings.

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Gibson strikes out nine as Twins beat Orioles 5-4

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Gibson strikes out nine as Twins beat Orioles 5-4

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Bobby Wilson helped Kyle Gibson turn around his pitching after a rough first inning. Then, for at least one afternoon, the veteran catcher fixed his own struggles at the plate.

Wilson went 2-for-3 with three RBIs, Gibson recovered from a shaky first to throw seven innings, and the Twins beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 on Saturday.

Max Kepler homered in his second straight game to help send the Twins to their third win in a row.

"You take them any way you can get them," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We haven't had the luxury of any kind of run here as of late, so to start out the home stand with three, it feels pretty good."

The Twins didn't bring in Wilson for his offense -- his two-hit day raised his batting average to .134 -- so they're not expecting him to deliver game-turning hits on a regular basis. But that's exactly what he did with an RBI single in the fifth that made it 3-2, and a two-RBI double the next inning that proved the game-winner.

It was Wilson's first multi-hit game since Sept. 21, 2016.

"I feel like I've been doing everything I can defensively but it's time to start turning that corner and start contributing offensively as well," Wilson said.

Earlier in the day, the team needed Wilson's smarts behind the plate to recover from an early hole.

Gibson (3-6) allowed three runs in the first inning -- including a two-run homer by Chris Davis -- but only gave up two hits after that while striking out nine. It was Gibson's highest strikeout total since fanning 10 batters on April 26 against the New York Yankees.

"After the first inning we sat down and I said `Gibby talk to me, what do we got to do? What's going to turn this around?' So we talked about a few things and we kind of stuck with that game plan for the rest of the game," Wilson said.

Kepler's solo shot off Kevin Gausman sparked a three-run fifth that tied it. Wilson's two-run double off Miguel Castro (2-5) in the sixth gave Minnesota the lead for good.

Trevor Hildenberger worked a scoreless eighth for the Twins. Jace Peterson's RBI double off Fernando Rodney pulled the Orioles to 5-4, but Rodney got Tim Beckham on a grounder to short to convert his 19th save in 24 chances.

PUNCHLESS ORIOLES

The team with baseball's worst record, meanwhile, lost its fifth in the row and fell 40 games below .500.

"It's kind of hard to believe that's where we're at right now," Davis said. "I feel like anytime we start to build some momentum, we either give it right back to the other team or we do something to kind of take ourselves out of the game."

That certainly seemed the case Saturday.

Coming off his best start of the season against the L.A. Angels, Gausman had a 3-0 lead before ever taking the mound and looked sharp early. Gausman faced the minimum number of batters through the first three innings, and allowed a single hit through the first four.

But things turned quickly in the fifth. With one out, Kepler homered to left-center, Robbie Grossman doubled, and Jake Cave and Wilson followed with singles. After Joe Mauer walked, Cave scored on a wild pitch to tie the game.

"I don't think I really got away from anything. They just did a good job of battling and put some long at-bats together, and fought some pitches off and really got my pitch count off."

Gausman, who held the Angels to one run and two hits without a walk in eight innings last Sunday, didn't return for the sixth.

TURNING POINT

The Orioles loaded the bases in the third with two outs, but Gibson struck out Danny Valencia swinging to end the threat. After that, Gibson allowed a leadoff double to Jonathan Schoop before retiring 10 in a row.

"We scored three in the first and then just didn't do anything," manager Buck Showalter said. We had a chance to open it up there, but that's the hit that's been eluding us to really get to that five or six-run lead."

TRAINERS ROOM

Orioles: OF Trey Mancini got a rare day off, but manager Buck Showalter said he was fine. The manager said it was more about getting Peterson a chance to play. Peterson went 1-for-3 on Saturday.

RIPKEN'S RECORD

Davis' strikeout against Hildenberger in the eighth was the 1,306th of his career, moving him past Cal Ripken, Jr. for Baltimore's franchise record.

"You play long enough, you're going to swing and miss enough to apparently set some records. There's not really much to say about that," Davis said.

UP NEXT

Orioles: Alex Cobb (2-10) takes the mound for Baltimore in the finale. He hasn't won since June 5 against the New York Mets.

Twins: Jake Odorizzi (3-6) makes his 19th start of the year as the Twins go for the sweep. His last outing against Baltimore was March 29, when he shut out the Orioles over six innings on two hits and two walks.