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If the Astros cheated against the Rays, the results say it didn’t matter much

Tampa Bay went 8-6 against the Astros in 2017-18 when MLB says Houston was breaking rules. The commissioner’s office says the cheating stopped before the 2019 postseason.
Ji-Man Choi's strikeout ended the American League Division Series for the Rays in October, but Major League Baseball says there is no evidence the Astros were breaking the rules to steal signs during the 2019 postseason. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
Ji-Man Choi's strikeout ended the American League Division Series for the Rays in October, but Major League Baseball says there is no evidence the Astros were breaking the rules to steal signs during the 2019 postseason. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Jan. 14
Updated Jan. 14

ST. PETERSBURG — So we have officially entered the reassessment stage of baseball’s cheating scandal.

The commissioner’s office has determined, and the Astros have admitted, they broke the rules by using video replay monitors to steal catchers’ signs during the 2017-18 seasons.

So, in retrospect, does that mean the Rays lost games unfairly? Frankly, the current evidence is inconclusive.

The most obvious example would appear to be the 2019 American League Division Series when the Astros won in five games. Houston won all three of its home games, while the Rays won both games at Tropicana Field.

Related: Talk about your literal bang-bang plays when Rays met cheating Astros in 2017

That might suggest the Astros were taking advantage of the video replay monitor at Minute Maid Park, but the commissioner’s office determined Houston was not using video replay monitors in 2019.

The Astros famously hammered Rays starter Tyler Glasnow early in Game 5 because he was supposedly tipping his pitches. But tipping pitches is vastly different from using electronics to steal signs.

Glasnow was, indeed, holding his glove at different levels when he was throwing off-speed pitches and fastballs. The Astros picked up on the minor discrepancy, and used the information to take aggressive swings.

As far as the 2017-18 seasons, the Rays did better than most teams against the Astros. Tampa Bay had a winning record against Houston, going a combined 4-3 both at home and on the road each season.

The Rays had an unusually high 5.00 ERA against the Astros in 2017, but that was mostly due to a 14-7 loss in July. Their team ERA against the Astros in 2018 was a sparkly 2.49.

John Romano can be reached at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.

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