LOS ANGELES – There will be no escaping the record heat when the World Series kicks off Tuesday evening at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. And we don’t mean the fastballs thrown by Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw and Astros starter Dallas Keuchel.
The Los Angeles office of the National Weather Service is forecasting 99 degrees as Kershaw stares down the sign from catcher Austin Barnes shortly after 5 p.m. local time. At least it’s an evening game; the afternoon high is expected to be a record 102.
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Still, this temperature will shatter the old World Series first-pitch temperature record of 94 set in Phoenix during Game 1 of the 2001 World Series.
Tuesday’s triple-digit high temperature in Los Angeles is forecast to be hotter than any game in Houston this year. The only day Houston recorded a 100-degree high this season was July 29, and the Astros were in Detroit.
The weather service advises during hot weather that people should “reduce exercise and strenuous work.” Good luck telling that to the players on the teams fighting for a ring Tuesday night.
The weather service also suggests finding a place with air conditioning, drinking plenty of water and wearing light-colored clothing.
Well, the Dodgers — wearing white — will have the advantage on that one.
Heat is a good thing for hitters
The heat is not the only thing the pitchers will have to contend with. The weather also affects hitting.
A 1995 study by professors Mark D. Kraft and Brent R. Skeeter showed that a fly ball travels an average 16 feet farther in temperatures greater than 90 degrees than a ball traveling in 50 degrees.
“The results of this study show, perhaps surprisingly, that temperature is the most important meteorological variable affecting fly ball distances for the major leagues as a whole,” Kraft and Skeeter said.
There is some relief in the forecast for the pitchers of both teams, and it isn’t just the bullpen. The temperature will sink with the sun as it sets at 6:08 p.m., and by the end of the game it will be in the 80s.
Then there is the wind
As the Astros take the plate to face Kershaw in the first inning, the flags in the center field stands will likely be waving straight toward the batters.
If the wind is still coming sharp out of the northeast, don’t expect any huge homers in the first few innings.
An extreme northeasterly wind with gusts up to 40 to 60 mph is forecast throughout the day. But like the temperature, the wind will subside, and may shift direction out of the northwest, giving a cross-field breeze.
Blame it on the Santa Anas
These big wind events in Los Angeles are commonly called the Santa Ana winds.
A robust high-pressure system is building over the Western United States, which will cause winds in Southern California to shift out of the north and northeast.
When this happens, the wind moves over the mountains and the cooler air moves downhill toward the coast. As the air sinks it gets warmer and warmer and faster and faster.
The winds get even stronger when they flow through the canyons, kind of like when winds strengthen between buildings in a city.
Not only will this have a significant impact on Tuesday night’s game, but it also poses a risk of wildfires in the region.
Breaking a World Series record
This game could become the hottest World Series game played if the forecast holds true. The 2001 Phoenix game was the first year for Arizona’s new stadium, which has a retractable roof.
But despite the heat, the Major League Baseball commissioner’s office ordered the Diamondbacks to leave the roof open for all four Series home games.
The Yankees couldn’t take the heat and the Diamondbacks went on to win that first game, 9-1, and eventually the series.
Forecasting the rest of the series
Above-average temperatures are still in the forecast for Game 2 on Wednesday, but the first-pitch forecast is a comparatively mild 92.
On Friday night the teams will be back to long sleeves. The game-time temperature in Houston is expected to be in the upper 60s and should drop to the lower 60s by the end of the ninth.
Game 4 on Saturday evening will have similar conditions. If there is a Game 5 in Houston, expect more of the same typical autumn air.
If the Series goes to Game 6 and 7 back in L.A., the heat streak will be over. And Dodgers baseball will feel more like what you would expect in Los Angeles: 70s at game time.