(670 The Score) One way to help prevent the Astros from stealing signs is to make sure they don’t have a baserunner on second base. Lately, teams have even been willing to give away a free base to ensure that isn’t the situation.
Twice in the past week, opposing pitchers have purposefully dropped the ball on the mound as they get set, leading to a balk call that has sent Astros third baseman Alex Bregman from second base to third base without any other runners on. The latest to do it was White Sox ace Dylan Cease, who dropped the ball in the top of the fifth inning with Bregman on second and two outs Tuesday evening at Guaranteed Rate Field. It was an odd scene, and Cease sure looked like he wanted Bregman to head to third, as he motioned to the umpires to think real hard about what just happened.
The White Sox’s decision to give the Astros a free base didn’t hurt them in this instance, as Houston outfielder Kyle Tucker flied out to end the top of the fifth. The White Sox trailed 3-1 at the time and later rallied for a 4-3 win.
On Aug. 10, Rangers reliever Jonathan Hernandez also dropped the ball for a balk with Bregman on second base as Texas held a five-run lead on Houston in the 10th inning.
“This team is probably the best I’ve ever been around,” then-Rangers manager Chris Woodward said of the Astros' ability to discern pitch locations, grips and more.
MLB found that the Astros illegally used technology in a sign-stealing scheme in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Stealing signs the old-fashioned way – without the help of technology – is fair game, though it’s more difficult to do with the recent implementation of PitchCom, technology in which a catcher inputs a sign on his wristband and the pitcher hears it in a receiver in his hat.