The White Sox finally beat the Astros on Sunday night to stay alive in their first-round playoff series.
And the trash talk wasn’t far behind.
More specifically, the trash-can talk.
Former Cubs reliever Ryan Tepera, who turned in the key pitching performance for the Sox in the 12-6 victory on the South Side, called out the Astros for more of the kind of home-cooking, sign-stealing hi-jinks that cost their manager and general manager their jobs in early 2020 after an MLB investigation.
“They’re doing something different over there at Minute Maid [Park in Houston],” said Tepera, referring to 6-1 and 9-6 losses in Houston in the first two games of the best-of-five series, during which the Astros hitters combined for 20 hits and 16 strikeouts.
“It shows you how many swings and misses they had tonight compared to Minute Maid,” he added.
The Astros managed just six hits and had as many strikeouts Sunday as they did in the first two games combined — including three by Tepera in his two perfect innings of work to help settle a game in which the teams combined for 15 runs in the first four innings.
Asked to clarify if he was indeed suggesting the Astros were still engaging in sign-stealing shenanigans, Tepera said:
“Yeah. I mean, it is what it is. They’ve obviously had a reputation of doing some sketchy stuff over there. We can say that it’s a little bit of a difference. I think you saw the swings and misses tonight compared to the first two games at Minute Maid.
“But that’s not really the story,” he quickly added. “We came here to compete. We’re not going to worry about that.”
Actually, it’s been the story of the Astros ever since the investigation found the Astros guilty of a video-based sign-stealing scheme that used a trash-can-banging system for relaying information to the batters during their championship run in the 2017 postseason and into 2018.
The Astros also were purported via social-media video “evidence” of using electronic sensors to relay signs during the 2019 postseason — though MLB said its investigation cleared them of wrongdoing in that period.
And since fans were allowed back into stadiums this season, the story has been resurrected every time the Astros have traveled to another road city — with fans raining down boos upon the main players still with the team since the scandal.
Especially Jose Altuve, who was met with chants of “F— Altuve” every time he batted Sunday.
Sox fans also chanted “Chea-ters! Chea-ters!” throughout the night, especially targeting Altuve and Alex Bregman.
“It was a lot of fun,” Tepera said of the overall crowd engagement. “It’s been a while since I’ve had that playoff atmosphere.”
It was at that point Tepera brought up the unsolicited “something different” in Houston comment.
Whether there’s something to it or whether Tepera is trying to play mind games with the Astros, it’s not the first time he has been unusually outspoken and candid about his thoughts on something.
After getting suspended for throwing behind Milwaukee pitcher Brandon Woodruff’s legs in April, he arranged a media Zoom session, during which he said “baseball has become a bit soft.”
He’s not wrong about that, or when he added that “back in the day matters were settled on the field.”
And if calling out the Astros is the start of some epic comeback in the series for the Sox (not to mention that key two innings pitched), then he will once again have more than earned that MVP vote he got in 2019.