Houston Astros manager Bo Porter has had a frustrating week, which might be expected when tasked with guiding a young and inexperienced ball club in the midst of a complete rebuild. We saw a bit of that frustration boil over following Thursday night's loss to the Kansas City Royals when Porter could barely discuss a costly Matt Dominguez mental error.
He may have really let it get the best of him on the field during Houston's 11-3 loss to the Oakland A's on Friday night.
The seeds of the incident were planted in the first inning: With Houston already trailing 7-0, Porter and company took exception to Oakland's Jed Lowrie laying down a bunt against a defensive shift during his second plate appearance of the inning.
Nothing was said then, but when Lowrie came to bat in the third inning, he was brushed off the plate twice by reliever Paul Clemens. Lowrie ultimately flied out to end the inning. At that point, it appeared he had some words for the Astros as they walked off the field. Jose Altuve, Lowrie's former teammate and double play partner with the Astros, approached him to calm him down. Though it was clear Lowrie didn't appreciate what happened at the plate, things did seem to calm down a little.
That was until Porter ran on the field and started jawing, concluding by motioning and reportedly ordering Lowrie to "go back to shortstop."
The situation did not escalate beyond what's seen in the video. Lowrie returned to his position and the game continued without any further shenanigans or any ejections.
However, two questions have to be asked and answered.
1. Was Porter out of line in confronting Lowrie on the field?
This one is easy. The situation was calming down until Porter arrived and said his piece to Lowrie. If he's getting his players off the field that's one thing. That he made it a point to jaw with Lowrie is another that could have ignited a larger confrontation.
It will be interesting to see if the league has anything to say about this because it obviously prefers managers keeping it professional and not involving themselves directly with opposing players.
2. Did Lowrie really break an unwritten rule?
Maybe, but he sure didn't think so.
"It's the first inning and they're playing the shift," Lowrie said about his bunt attempt. "Apparently they didn't like that, but I've seen crazier things happen than a team come back from seven runs. We're trying to win the game, and I felt they were giving me that by playing the shift."
A couple things worth pointing out here.
First, Lowrie is right, 7-0 in the first inning is quite a bit different than 7-0 in the final three innings. Houston still had eight innings to forge a comeback, which even with its lineup isn't insurmountable.
Second, if the Astros are still utilizing a shift and applying strategy to the game, why can't Lowrie make an honest attempt to beat the shift? Even if this game was over, which for all intents and purposes it was, if Houston is going to tip its hand defensively, in return Lowrie can plant a seed that he may lay down a bunt in a future game to offset it. It's not always about today. Sometimes it's about tomorrow when it comes to feeling out an opponent and seeing how they react, and by laying down the bunt he may make Houston rethink something.
From that perspective, it may have actually been a smart play by Lowrie. Then again, perhaps the funniest part of the entire scenario is the fact it didn't work. Lowrie bunted right to the pitcher and was thrown out, so he gained nothing and the Astros lost nothing on that play.
It was much ado about nothing, really. But any time an unwritten rule comes into question you're going to get drama.
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