He has come to the right ballpark.
The National Weather Service forecast calls for a high of 101 degrees in Los Angeles and an excessive heat warning in advance of Game 1 of the World Series between the Astros and Dodgers on Tuesday. While the temperature is expected to dip into the upper 90s by the 5:09 p.m. PST first pitch, Keuchel and his opponent, Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw, might feel as if they’re sharing a sauna for two-plus hours and 200-plus pitches.
“I mean, it’s the World Series,” Keuchel said. “So if it’s a little hotter than usual, that’s fine with me. There’s no place I’d rather be.”
The available statistical information reflects the extraordinary meteorological circumstances the teams will play under in Los Angeles. Baseball-reference.com lists temperature data from the postseason dating back to 1984 in both leagues, and the warmest MLB playoff game on record in that span was 96 degrees for the opener of the 2014 National League Division Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Dodgers in Los Angeles.
“Yeah, it is going to be hot,” Kershaw said. “But, no, I don’t think it’s going to change anything. I think by 5 o’clock, the sun will be down. They’re from Houston. I’m from Texas. It’s going to be hot for everybody. We’re all used to it.”
Keuchel, Kershaw and their teammates cited two factors that could come into play because of the excessive heat. The starting pitchers, in particular, will have to make sure to stay properly hydrated if they plan to throw 100 pitches or more.
The heat could also help the baseball fly. This season, there were 1.2 home runs per game in Major League Baseball when the temperature was 89 degrees or below (or the game was played indoors). There were 1.5 homers when the temperature was 90 degrees or higher. Teams also scored almost a full run more per game.
Justin Verlander, who’s scheduled to start Game 2 for the Astros on Wednesday when the temperature will also flirt with triple-digits, downplayed the impact of the weather conditions on offense in the series.
“Can the ball fly any more than it already is the last couple of years,” Verlander said. “Seriously?”
For several players at Monday’s media sessions, it was more about the oddity of the circumstances compared with what they’ve experienced in previous Octobers or grown up watching on television.
In 1976, commissioner Bowie Kuhn was in the stands at Riverfront Stadium for Game 2 of the World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees. It was the first World Series weekend game played at night, and Kuhn was mocked for not wearing an overcoat even as the temperatures dipped into the 40s.
“I grew up in the South seeing all the different playoffs and World Series, and usually half of them are in freezing temperatures,” said Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood, a North Carolina native and University of Georgia product. “It’s been pretty funny that we haven’t had to deal with any of that.”
When Chase Utley played second base for the Philadelphia Phillies against the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2008 World Series, Game 5 got underway with 47-degree temperatures, 16 mph winds and a steady drizzle. The game was suspended in the sixth inning, and the Phillies clinched the series two nights later.
“It’s much more hitter-friendly here, that’s for sure,” Utley said. “And probably body-friendly as well, as long as you stay hydrated.”
Keuchel, who sports one of baseball’s most voluminous beards, was asked if he might shave to make his life a little more bearable in Game 1. But personal grooming isn’t on his agenda — at least for now.
“If it’s hot enough for four wins, I’ll shave it, for sure,” Keuchel said.