Astros drawing suspicion again? White Sox pitcher insinuates Houston could be cheating

The Chicago White Sox broke out in Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Sunday, beating the Houston Astros, 12-6, and extending their season for at least one more game.

The White Sox had been totally stifled in the first two games of the series, which were played at Houston's Minute Maid Park and featured a lot of hits (20 over those two games) from the Astros.

Following their Game 3 win, which was played at Guaranteed Rate Field, White Sox pitcher Ryan Tepera ruminated on that and heavily implied that the Astros might be up to their old tricks, AKA cheating.

Tepera was very careful to not actually accuse the Astros of cheating. He didn't even say the word "cheating." And that's a good thing, because there's no real evidence that the Astros — the team whose sign-stealing scandal roiled baseball and reshaped their front office just over a year ago — have been cheating.

The only information Tepera wields is that the Astros were hitting well at home, which is circumstantial at best. Teams typically do well at home, hence the phrase "home-field advantage" and the Astros were MLB's best offense in the regular season. Plus, the Astros had hitting success at Guaranteed Rate Field on Sunday, scoring the same number of runs (six) as they did in Game 1 at Minute Maid Park.

Dusty Baker responds

There was no way the Astros wouldn't take notice of Tepera's words. Manager Dusty Baker definitely did. He responded to Tepera by using the words of Eric Clapton, implying that Tepera and the White Sox might be the ones cheating.

Astros have to live with their reputation

Despite the lack of evidence, it's hard to blame Tepera or anyone else on the White Sox (not to mention other teams the Astros might face in the playoffs) for openly wondering if the Astros are cheating. The scheme they employed throughout their World Series-winning 2017 season, using a trash can banging system to warn hitters of what pitches were coming, is seared into baseball lore — and the minds of their opponents.

Is it fair that the Astros will be suspected of cheating in every playoff series for the foreseeable future? Probably not (even though a lot of players from the 2017 season still play for the Astros), but that's how it goes. Philadelphia sports fans booed Santa in the 1970s and are still called the worst fans in sports because of it.

The sports world has a long memory, so the Astros are likely to carry their reputation as cheaters with them for years to come.