The Boston Red Sox entered Tuesday night with the chance to clinch a World Series berth on their home turf at Fenway Park still very much alive. Earlier in the day, the Yankees had announced manager Aaron Boone would be returning on a three-year deal.
Yankees stumbling while Boston was coronated. It just felt like the worst possible combination of events.
And then, just like that, the Houston Astros decided to make the ALCS a little bit interesting, something Red Sox fans have not done a good job of handling whatsoever.
First came the “Ball Call Heard ‘Round the World,” the borderline pitch from Nathan Eovaldi that for some reason got a Jeff Passan soliloquy written about it even though it was far from the reason Boston sputtered in Game 4 and had very little to do with the offense’s failures with runners in scoring position.
Following behind that flashpoint on Wednesday came cheating allegations, levied not-so-subtly from the Red Sox radio booth directly at Astros starter Framber Valdez, who was in the middle of a field day at the Fens.
We know the words don’t usually go so seamlessly together. “Astros”? “Cheating”? Surely, there must be some kind of mistake here.
But nope. That was the insinuation, for what we assume was the first time ever.
Red Sox announcers think Framber Valdez is cheating.
It brings us great pain to defend the Astros here — true cheaters! — but the drop-of-a-hat cheating allegations when they’re succeeding is getting really old.
For all the grousing and grumbling, Valdez did do something that’s typically frowned upon in this game: went eight full innings in postseason play. He also allowed just a single run on five hits, saving manager Dusty Baker’s bacon after the vet admitted he basically ran out of pitchers in Tuesday night’s Game 4.
Did he use the grease from some of that bacon he saved to scuff up the baseball, though? Who’s to say? There was certainly nothing but conjecture here from the Sox announcers, and it was all particularly rich coming from the team that re-hired Alex Cora, but wants you to believe they’re some sort of non-villain in this Astros series. The Astros’ main cheating guy works for them now! It’s true!
Anything else untoward in this one, by any chance? Oh, nothing much. Just a strange blinking light in center that the umpires managed to shut off. Cora got mad about this at some point? Was he … trying to insinuate the Astros took their sign-stealing onto the road and infiltrated his own home turf? Odd. Blink, blink.
There are no real winners in this Red Sox-Astros series that now heads back to Houston, but every time Boston tries to act cute and pretend the cheating should only be associated with the other dugout, we simply have to raise our hands.
Shoutout to Framber Valdez, who simply likes to rub his sweaty head. And that’s alright.