Rangers veteran Adrian Beltre, who had two RBIs in Sunday's win, joked that he can hit a ball as far Joey Gallo's 490-foot homer, but chooses not to upstage his young teammate. Stefan Stevenson sstevenson@star-telegram.com
Rangers veteran Adrian Beltre, who had two RBIs in Sunday's win, joked that he can hit a ball as far Joey Gallo's 490-foot homer, but chooses not to upstage his young teammate. Stefan Stevenson sstevenson@star-telegram.com

Texas Rangers

As homers spike, MLB pitchers have their fingers on a reason

September 20, 2017 10:37 PM

SEATTLE

More home runs have been hit this season than in any other in MLB history, and everyone is wondering what has gotten into the hitters who have made going deep a habit.

Alex Gordon, arguably the worst hitter in baseball this season, connected Tuesday for home run No. 5,694 to break the mark set in 2000, at the height of the Steroid Era. Only the Doug Gottlieb types, though, are claiming players are juicing rampantly again.

The Texas Rangers, despite being in a September power drought, entered Wednesday second in the majors with 224 home runs.

Hitters are stronger than ever. They’re taught to hit home runs and not worry about striking out. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo hit balls nearly 500 feet?

Major league pitchers, that’s who.

Those poor pitchers have, in general, seen their ERAs rise and homers allowed climb to career-highs. Balls that ordinarily would have been outs are now out.

They don’t suspect anything fishy going on with hitters. Pitchers are tested for performance-enhancing drugs, too.

But the balls this season are, well, different, and that’s one big factor contributing to this homer-happy season.

“I feel confident saying that it is,” right-hander Nick Martinez said. “I just think that they’re flying a lot more. They just feel different.”

Martinez said that the balls are harder, a complaint echoed throughout the game. If a ball is wound more tightly, it will be harder and the seams will be lower and offer less resistance to air.

Left-hander Martin Perez, who has allowed a career-high 21 homers, said that theythe baseballs feel smaller and lighter. Home runs are hit on mistake pitches, he said, but pitchers are getting away with fewer mistakes.

“It’s not the same ball,” he said.

No one touches a ball as often as pitchers do, so they would quickly know if something is different. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, at Safeco Field for a quick visit, said that the balls have been tested at independent labs and are within the specifications.

He didn’t say if they are at the top end of the specifications, and he also said that the balls are handmade and more susceptible to differences.

“I know what the results of that testing is, and I know that our baseballs have consistently been within the specifications that we set for baseball,” Manfred said. “Now, they are handmade products. I’m not saying every single baseball is the same, because they are handmade, but I’m saying, in general, our baseballs are within their specifications.”

MLB’s research also shows that chicks still dig the long ball, as do dudes and little dudes and chicks.

“We have research that shows fans like home runs,” Manfred said. “I think that’s a positive as far as how the fans react to the game.”

Martinez and Perez didn’t have any specific weights and measurements, and Manfred said that he’s not about to argue with any pitchers who say the balls are different than in years past.

Joey Gallo cares not for how long he homers

Rangers slugger Joey Gallo, who hit a 490-foot homer in Sunday's 4-2 win, said he's not concerned with distance, as long as it goes out.

Stefan Stevenson sstevenson@star-telegram.com

Martinez said that he first thought something was fishy when watching batting practice at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Not only were right-handed hitters launching balls into the patio areas in left field, so were left-handed hitters.

Indeed, numbers show that opposite-field home runs are up this season as is the percentage of hard-hit balls. But even Martinez concedes that there’s more to the home-run surge than just the ball.

Players are better athletes. They are stronger. They are taught differently than in the past, hearing from a young age not to worry about striking out and just hit the ball hard. Forget about two-strike approaches.

But one thing Manfred insists is that baseball isn’t in the midst of another PED scandal.

“I know we have the best drug-testing program of any sport,” he said. “I didn’t say professional sport. I said any sport. In terms of frequency, technology, unpredictability, our sport’s the best. We’re doing everything possible on that front, and I have no reason to believe that it has anything to do with performance-enhancing drugs.”

But there has to be a reason for the surge in home runs this season, more than in any other in MLB history. Actually, it’s a combination of reasons, and the guys who touch the ball more than anyone else believe the balls are different.

Those poor pitchers.

Martin Perez talks about his latest start, season after 30 outings

Left-hander Martin Perez's 30th start of the season Tuesday was another good one in an important game against the Seattle Mariners, and he feels good about his season as a whole for the Texas Rangers (video by Jeff Wilson).

Jeff Wilson jwilson@star-telegram.com

Tuesday’s late box

Texas

010

000

020

3

10

0

Seattle

000

010

000

1

6

0

Texas AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

DeShields cf

4

1

2

0

0

1

.281

Choo rf

3

0

0

1

0

1

.260

Andrus ss

4

0

2

1

0

0

.302

Beltre dh

4

1

2

0

0

1

.312

Mazara lf

4

0

1

0

0

1

.255

Rua lf

0

0

0

0

0

0

.220

Gallo 1b

4

0

1

1

0

1

.212

Chirinos c

4

0

0

0

0

0

.260

Odor 2b

4

0

1

0

0

0

.209

Robinson 3b

2

0

0

0

0

2

.203

Gomez ph

1

0

1

0

0

0

.253

Middlbrks pr-3b

0

1

0

0

0

0

.238

Totals 34

3

10

3

0

7

 

Seattle AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Segura ss

4

0

0

0

0

0

.295

Haniger rf

3

0

1

0

0

0

.277

Cano 2b

4

0

1

0

0

0

.283

Cruz dh

3

0

0

0

1

1

.285

Hannmnn pr-dh

0

0

0

0

0

0

.250

Seager 3b

4

0

0

0

0

2

.251

Valencia 1b

1

0

0

0

1

0

.259

Alonso ph-1b

0

0

0

0

1

0

.264

Ruiz ph

1

0

0

0

0

0

.229

Zunino c

4

0

1

0

0

1

.248

Heredia cf

4

1

2

0

0

0

.259

Gamel lf

3

0

1

1

0

1

.278

Totals 31

1

6

1

3

5

 

LOB—Texas 5, Seattle 7. 2B—Mazara (30), Odor (20), Gomez (21), Gamel (23). RBIs—Choo (73), Andrus (86), Gallo (76), Gamel (55). SB—DeShields (29). CS—Andrus (9). SF—Choo. Runners left in scoring position—Texas 3 (Mazara, Odor, Robinson); Seattle 3 (Segura, Seager, Gamel). RISP—Texas 2 for 7; Seattle 0 for 3. Runners moved up—Gallo. LIDP—Choo. GIDP—Seager. DP—Texas 1 (Gallo); Seattle 1 (Gamel, Valencia).

Texas

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Perez

6 1/3

4

1

1

1

4

98

4.70

Barnette, W, 2-1

 2/3

2

0

0

1

0

24

4.58

Bush, H, 10

 1/3

0

0

0

0

0

6

3.49

Diekman, H, 4

 2/3

0

0

0

1

1

12

3.38

Claudio, S, 9-13

1

0

0

0

0

0

13

2.65

Seattle

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Leake

6 2/3

6

1

1

0

5

93

3.91

Rzepczynski

 1/3

0

0

0

0

0

3

3.82

Vincent, L, 3-3

1

3

2

2

0

1

15

2.87

Pazos

1

1

0

0

0

1

11

3.57

Inherited runners-scored—Diekman 1-0. HBP—Bush (Haniger). Umpires—Home, James Hoye; First, Jeff Kellogg; Second, Will Little; Third, Tim Timmons. T—2:54. A—17,251 (47,476).

Rangers at Mariners

9:10 p.m. Thursday, FSSW

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