CC Sabathia goes nine as Yankees beat Orioles, move on to ALCS

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Just as Justin Verlander pitched the Tigers past the A’s, CC Sabathia proved to be the dominant presence as the Yankees beat the Orioles 3-1 in Friday’s decisive Game 5 and advanced to the ALCS.

Sabathia, coming off a win in Game 1 in which he nearly went the distance, did go nine this time for his first complete game in 17 postseason starts. He finished the ALDS with a 1.53 ERA.

The Orioles never put together a serious threat until the eighth. though they did nearly get a run in the sixth. Nate McLouth missed a homer by inches when he pulled a ball down the right-field line; some are even insisting it tipped the foul pole on the way by, though replays were inconclusive. That would have tied the game at 1.

The eighth was more interesting. Lew Ford delivered an RBI single with one out, and thanks to Sabathia’s own mental error on a comebacker, the Orioles loaded the bases afterwards. Sabathia got out of the inning by striking out McLouth and inducing a slow grounder to short from J.J. Hardy.

Had the Yankees bullpen been better rested, Sabathia almost certainly would have departed then. However, since Rafael Soriano pitched one inning Wednesday and two innings Thursday, Sabathia stayed in. He retired Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters in order in the ninth.

Baltimore’s pitching was, once again, excellent. Jason Hammel allowed two runs and four hits in 5 2/3 innings in his start. The first came after Buck Showalter’s decision not to hold Mark Teixeira on at first base in the fifth, allowing Teixeira to steal second. Raul Ibanez then hit a grounder up the middle that might have resulted in two outs had the Orioles been at double-play depth. Since they weren’t, it proved to be an RBI single.

The Yankees also scored on a Derek Jeter walk and an Ichiro Suzuki RBI double in the sixth and on Curtis Granderson’s solo homer in the seventh. Granderson went 2-for-3 today after opening the series 1-for-16 with nine strikeouts.

The Bombers will host the Tigers in the Bronx when the ALCS starts on Saturday. With both aces expended, Doug Fister and Andy Pettitte are the expected starters.

MLB investigation confirms that the baseball has changed

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You know the baseballs are different. We know the baseballs are different. Pitchers have been saying the baseballs are different. And now Major League Baseball has acknowledged that the baseballs are different in a report of findings by a team of scientists from some of the top universities in the world, like Stanford, Caltech, and M.I.T.

You can read the whole thing here in PDF form. Here’s the gist …

The ball is not bouncier — or “juiced” — but it is most definitely carrying farther. From MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince …

Though the study did not discover meaningful changes in the ball’s lift, it found that the drag coefficient of MLB balls has decreased since 2015. The researchers used a physics model to calculate that if the change in home run rate was attributable entirely to changes in drag, one would expect the drag coefficient to have decreased by approximately 0.012. The exact change in drag coefficient in the time period studied — if you’re scoring at home — was 0.0153.

It’s not the seams or the core that has changed — those aspects were tested — and it’s not the weather either. In fact, the commision couldn’t figure out what is causing the decrease in drag, despite numerous tests on all elements of the ball. It might simply come down to manufacturing advancements. Looking at you, Rawlings …

“Rawlings is always trying to improve the manufacturing process to make it more uniform,” Alan Nathan, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign told MLB.com. “So the interesting question that comes up is whether the goal should be to improve the manufacturing process or to keep the ball performing exactly the way it is, regardless of whether it’s improved or not.”

Baseball Prospectus began studying this three years ago, as home runs began to increase around the league. Their write-up on MLB’s report is a must-read.