Did they mess with the balls this year?

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You and I are men of action. Simplistic projections based on small sample sizes do not become us. So please, while there have been a lot of home runs hit in the season’s first five days, let’s not play the “on pace” game. Not yet anyhow.

But we can listen to the anecdotes, can’t we? Such as the one Dave O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution passed along a few minutes ago in which an unidentified bullpen catcher said that the baseballs are harder this year and that he believes “they’ve been juiced to aid attendance in bad economy.”

Hurm. On the one hand, I’m guessing that there are few places on the planet where more b.s. is tossed around than in a bullpen. Lots of time to just sit there without the bosses nearby. I’ll bet there are more conspiracy theories hatched in bullpens than anywhere besides a barber shop and a Glenn Beck/Oliver Stone fishing outing. Put differently, I wouldn’t bet my life on the claim of a bullpen catcher.

On the other hand, baseball has a long and rich history of fiddling with the ball, both officially and unofficially, so you can’t really discount the notion out of hand.

My biggest question is why?  I mean, sure, a lot of people got off on calling last season “the year of the pitcher,” but there really wasn’t a lot to it. There were some high profile pitching performances and there was a dip from historic highs, but 2010 offensive levels were still elevated, historically speaking. It would make no sense to jack the ball for the purpose of boosting offense when it doesn’t need boosting.

Likewise, the economic argument is weak. Baseball has weathered the downturn pretty well, thank you. And besides, if MLB was going to make a panicky, gimmicky move to deal with the downturn, they would have done it before the 2009 or 2010 season when people were scared that we were entering the second Great Depression. Most people have chilled since then.

Fun chatter. I’d be curious to hear more of it, actually, because for every 10 lines of b.s. you hear, an interesting truth comes out.  But unless offense just goes crazy in 2011 — or unless, you know, someone actually finds some evidence of a juiced ball — I’m going to file this under “whatever dude, call me later.”

UPDATE: Official statement of MLB’s Pat Courtney: “There has been no change whatsoever on the composition of the baseball or the process in which they are made.”

Unless a scientist tells me differently, I’m goin’ with that.

Cardinals’ bullpen loses combined no-hit bid with two outs in the eighth inning

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Update (10:04 PM EST): Orlando Arcia reached on a fielding error by DeJong. Gallegos bounced back, inducing weak fly outs from Ryan Braun and Trent Grisham. Yasmani Grandal ended the dream, yanking a double down the right field line.

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Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson flirted a no-hitter, but was unable to make it through the seventh inning. The right-hander kept the Brewers hitless through 6 2/3 innings on Monday evening at Busch Stadium, striking out six and walking four on 111 pitches. Hudson’s career-high was 112 pitches, so it was not surprising to see manager Mike Shildt take Hudson out of the game after a two-out walk to Eric Thames. Giovanny Gallegos entered the game and got Ben Gamel to ground out to end the inning.

Hudson, 24, entered the night 11-6 with a 3.82 ERA and a 97/59 K/BB ratio in 127 1/3 innings.

The Cardinals provided Hudson three runs of support. Kolten Wong knocked in a run with a ground out in the fifth inning and Dexter Fowler added an RBI single later in the frame. Paul DeJong crushed a solo homer to left field in the sixth to make it 3-0.

The last Cardinals no-hitter was thrown by Bud Smith on September 3, 2001 against the Padres. The Brewers were last no-hit on June 12, 2007 by Justin Verlander, then with the Tigers. If the Cardinals were to complete the no-hitter, it would be the fourth of the 2019 season and the third combined no-hitter.

We will update this thread as the Cardinals’ bullpen attempts to keep the Brewers hitless through the final two innings.