White Sox reliever Ryan Tepera had some thoughts in the wake of his team’s 12-6 victory Sunday against the Astros in Game 3 of the American League Division Series after the Astros had a much tougher time against Sox pitching away from Minute Maid Park.
The Astros’ sign-stealing scandal was one of the biggest stories in Major League Baseball two seasons ago, and it took only three games in the ALDS for someone to bring it up again.
‘‘They’ve obviously had a reputation of doing some sketchy stuff over there,’’ Tepera said after the game Sunday. ‘‘We can say 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.’’
The Astros’ offense is one of the most difficult to strike out in the majors, and they fanned a combined 16 times in the first two games of the series to go with 32 swings-and-misses.
But Sox pitchers were more effective in Game 3. They struck out a franchise playoff-record 16 batters and got 22 swings-and-misses.
After calling out the Astros for potentially doing something in Houston to gain an edge, Tepera didn’t want to put the spotlight on his comments.
‘‘That’s not really the story,’’ he said. ‘‘We come here to play. We’re going to compete. We’re not going to worry about what they’re going to do. All we have to do is execute pitches, and they can’t hit ’em anyway.’’
‘‘It’s tough enough to play a team like Houston without getting distracted,’’ Sox manager Tony La Russa said Monday.
Sign-stealing has been part of baseball since its inception. But what Tepera insinuated was something more than that. Up to this point, there has been no evidence the Astros have done anything out of the ordinary.
Astros manager Dusty Baker and third baseman Alex Bregman met with reporters Monday in the wake of Tepera’s comments and didn’t hold back about how they felt.
‘‘Those are some heavy accusations,’’ Baker said. ‘‘We’re actually better on the road than we are at home. They’re better at home than they are on the road. . . . I was listening to Eric Clapton this morning, and he has a song, ‘Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself.’ ’’
The numbers back up Baker. The Astros’ home and road splits have been pretty consistent. They had a .787 OPS at home and a .780 OPS on the road during the regular season.
Like all teams, the Sox have been changing signs with a runner at second base throughout the series. There’s clearly a perception that follows the Astros after their scandal.
Baker, who wasn’t a part of the organization until 2020, said he doesn’t want anything to do with how his team is perceived outside of its clubhouse.
‘‘I don’t care nothing about perception,’’ he said. ‘‘You know what I mean? I care about my team.’’
With Game 4 postponed because of rain, Tepera’s comments and the subsequent fallout will hang over the series for another day. Tepera said he didn’t want his comments to be the story, but it’s a little too late for that.
Suddenly, a series that looked to be lacking in intensity after the first two games has gotten very interesting.
‘‘He can say what he wants to say,’’ Baker said. ‘‘I had never even heard his name before we played the White Sox. I’m not bothered by it. Most of my life, they’ve been talking stuff on me anyway. Let them talk.’’