Astros and Dodgers complain of ‘slicker’ baseball in World Series

Nerves have always made playoffs a whole different animal, but it seems the World Series really has been a whole new ballgame.

That’s at least according to players and coaches on both sides of the diamond, according to a report from Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci.

There’s long been speculation that the baseballs have been different in recent years, leading to a soaring home run rate.

But now, the fell of the baseballs is creating problems for pitchers, especially when it comes to throwing their sliders, according to Verducci.

“It’s different. I noticed it especially throwing a slider,” Justin Verlander said. “It didn’t feel the same. The home run I gave up to [Joc] Pederson was a slider.”

Yu Darvish, a slider-reliant pitcher who struggled mightily in Game 3, also noticed the difference.

“I had trouble with the ball throwing a slider,” Darvish said. “It was slicker.”

Pitchers on both squads have also suffered, especially Houston closer Ken Giles.

Giles, who threw his slider 47 percent of the time in the regular season and pitched to a 2.30 ERA while nailing down 34 saves, has been atrocious in October, allowing 10 runs in 7.2 innings (11.74 ERA). His performance in the World Series (five runs in 1.2 innings, 27.00 ERA) has deteriorated even further.

Verducci explains that Giles’ slider effectiveness has been a huge culprit. While his slider missed the strike zone 51 percent in the regular season, he’s missed with it 74 percent of the time this postseason, including 75 percent in the World Series alone. Since he can no longer control his best pitch, Giles’ fastball has been demolished, with Dodgers hitters batting .800 against it.

And while Charlie Morton and Alex Wood — the Game 4 starters for both sides — don’t throw sliders, Morton said the different ball still influenced his pitch selection.

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Dodgers vs Astros World Series Game 4
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Dodgers vs Astros World Series Game 4
Oct 28, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Alex Wood throws a pitch against the Houston Astros in the first inning in game four of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 28, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) throws out Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig in the second inning in game four of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 28, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Kike Hernandez hits a single against the Houston Astros in the sixth inning in game four of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 28, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (1) celebrates with third baseman Alex Bregman (2) after the top of the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game four of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 28, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes (15) is tagged out by Houston Astros catcher Brian McCann (16) in the sixth inning in game four of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 28, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros center fielder George Springer (4) reacts after hitting a solo home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth inning in game four of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 28, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Brandon Morrow throws a pitch against the Houston Astros in the seventh inning in game four of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 28, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Chris Devenski (47) reacts after retiring the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 8th inning in game four of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 28, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager (5) scores a run against the Houston Astros in the 9th inning in game four of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 28, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Joc Pederson (31) celebrates after hitting a three-run home run against the Houston Astros in the 9th inning in game four of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 28, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen (right) hugs catcher Austin Barnes (15) after defeating the Houston Astros in game four of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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“It affects running my two-seamer in to right-handers,” Morton said. “When the ball is slick, you can’t throw in with the same aggressiveness. If you don’t have control of the baseball, you might end somebody’s career. That’s a very bad thought to have in your head.”

Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt summed up the seriousness of the situation, saying MLB needs to resolve the baseball issue once and for all.

“I know guys have been talking about the ball,” Honeycutt said. “I also know that MLB has been talking for a while about maybe a ball that’s more like the ball in Japan, where the leather is tackier so that you can use it right out of the wrapper. I think something has to be done.”

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