SportsPulse: MLB insider Bob Nightengale gauges the temperature of each championship series, predicts who has the advantage if each goes the distance.
HOUSTON — There was no popping off on Twitter, no cute Instagram posts, and no one was playing “Deep in the Heart of Texas’’ Tuesday evening in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse.
“We just play baseball,’’ veteran Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “We don’t pay attention to any of that other stuff.’’
The Red Sox, taking a page out of Theodore Roosevelt’s playbook, speaking softly and carrying a big stick, punished the Houston Astros in their own style, 8-2, at Minute Maid Park, taking a 2-1 lead in the American League Championship Series.
It was one small step for the Red Sox, and perhaps a giant leap for baseball’s morality police.
The Astros, who have long been suspected by scouts this season of stealing signs, were caught cheating at Fenway Park in Game 1 of the ALCS, according to a report by Boston Metro. Fenway Park security removed a man in a first-base photo pit claiming to be an Astros employee, who had a small camera and was texting on his cell phone.
Major League Baseball issued a statement saying it’s aware of the matter and it will be handled internally.
The Red Sox players say they were unaware of the report, but GM David Dombrowski said that MLB informed him of the incident, although he said that he didn’t believe it had an impact during their Game 1 loss.
Yet, right before the eighth inning, with the Red Sox clinging to a 3-2 lead, TV cameras caught Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts inspecting and comparing baseballs, seeing if they had been doctored.
Well, coincidence or not, the Red Sox broke open the game with a five-run eighth inning, highlighted by Jackie Bradley Jr.’s grand slam.
Astros closer Roberto Osuna, the same guy who was suspended for 75 games earlier this season on domestic violence charges.
Oh, and the winning pitcher who dominated the Astros for six innings?
Nathan Eovaldi, who grew up in nearby Alvin, Texas, and was mocked by Alex Bregman on his Instagram account on Monday, showing a clip of the Astros hitting three consecutive homers off him in June.
“It might have been funny,’’ Red Sox second baseman Brock Holt said, “but Nathan got the last laugh.’’
Then again, so did Steve Pearce, who hit a 456-foot homer in the sixth inning that broke a 2-2 tie, and was seething Monday when asked by Boston radio station WEEI about Bregman’s social media post.
“Wow, I don’t know why he would do that,” Pearce told WEEI.com. “We do our talking on the field. If he wants to run his mouth now, we’ll see who is talking at the end of the series.’’
Well, all the Red Sox know is that they’re the ones now in the driver’s seat, becoming the first team to beat the Astros since Aug. 30-31, that’s 47 days ago for those counting.
Then again, the Red Sox were busy busting all kinds of trends this night, with Bradley having only one hit and one walk with in 19 bases-loaded plate appearances during the season. Yet, he’s 2-for-3 with the bases loaded in the postseason with a double, homer and seven RBI.
You would think it would prompt a huge display of emotion, showing a little swag dancing around the bases.
Bradley, who hit only the sixth grand-slam in Red Sox playoff history, simply put his head down, ran around the bases, and barely even smiled.
“I’ve never really been, I guess, over the top,’’ Bradley said. “I heard this saying from one of my [high-school] coaches back in the day. He said, ‘No one should ever know whether you’re winning or losing. Keep the same temperament. That way, it will allow you to put some perspective into things.’
“And I kind of took that to heart. I never get too high, and I’ll never got too low.’’
Maybe they’ll unleash that raw emotion if they win the ALCS, and knock off the defending World Series champs, but for now, they’ll act as if they’re businessmen in town discussing cattle ranches in the heart of Texas.
They’ll let everyone else do the talking.
“There’s nothing wrong with what the Astros do,’’ Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I think it’s actually cool for the game. The more the people talk about the game, the better it is.
“Actually, I had a meeting with some of our players, like, hey, man, you guys are good. You should play the part.’’
The only trash-talking the Red Sox were doing this night was with one another. It may have yet another brilliant performance by Eovaldi, who’s earning himself a lucrative free-agent payday after giving up six hits and two runs in six innings, but his teammates couldn’t help but take him down a notch.
“He’s a great pitcher,’’ Red Sox starter David Price said, “but he stinks at Fortnight. He’s selfish. Very selfish.’’
“What’s he talking about?’’ responded Eovaldi, who’s from Nolan Ryan’s hometown. “I carry him in Fortnight. I carry him all day long.’’
And when given the chance to take a little jab at Bregman, who went 2-for-3 with a single, double and RBI to increase his on-base percentage to .714 this season, he offered nothing but respect.
“Look, he’s the hottest hitter over there right now,’’ Eovaldi said, “so I’m not going to worry about any other stuff. I have to respect the fact he’s swinging a big bat, so you can’t get beat.’’
Maybe if the Red Sox win this series, they will steal Aaron Judge’s boom box, hack into Bregman’s social media account, and troll the Astros all winter.
For now, they realize they’re in full control of this series, and aren’t about to let anything distract them now.
“We’re just feeding off each other and staying focused,’’ Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said. “All we’re worrying about is each other.’’
Well, and perhaps taking a few precautions, making sure no one is stealing their signs using a little espionage.
“I’m always concerned about that throughout the season,’’ Cora said. “We don’t get caught up on the whole paranoia thing of the signs. We try to slow it down. If we feel there’s something going on, we switch the signs.’’
And if the Astros really are cheating, and stealing signs, something has gone wrong with the technology.
“We can’t just play baseball anymore?’’ Price said. “What happened to that?’’
Follow Nightengale on Twitter @BNightengale