Are Astros tipping pitches? Coach wonders if Red Sox are picking up signs

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Are Red Sox benefiting from Astros tipping pitches in ALCS? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

There has to be some explanation, right?

The Boston Red Sox have absolutely demolished Houston Astros pitching in the American League Championship Series, scoring 21 runs on 22 hits over their last two games to surge to a 2-1 series lead.

So, after Monday's 12-3 thrashing at Fenway Park, Astros pitching coach Brent Strom wondered if the Red Sox' offensive success may have to do with knowing what's coming.

Tomase: The most improbable trip to the World Series seems within reach

"This is a very good hitting team, and they’re very adept at picking up little things, much more so than most teams," Strom said of the Red Sox, via The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. "We need to be very cognizant of the little things, tipping-type things, things like that, that they’re very astute at. We’ve just gotten behind hitters.

To clarify, the Red Sox picking up on tipped Astros pitches would be 100% legal. (No trash cans or Apple Watches needed.) Boston's Game 3 starter, Eduardo Rodriguez, has struggled with pitch-tipping -- the habit of inadvertently signaling what pitch you're going to throw-- throughout his career.

It's still a significant advantage to know what pitch is coming, though, and Strom told Rosenthal his hunch is based on which pitches the Red Sox are laying off more than the ones they're jumping on.

"We have to re-evaluate and see if they’re seeing things that are maybe tipping the scales a little bit in their favor," Strom said. "These are veteran (hitters). And of course, they have the ultimate guy (Alex Cora) as their manager, who … he’s just very good at it. We just have to do a better job of watching what our pitchers do and getting ahead in the count."

Of course, it's also possible Boston's bats are just locked in against a less-than-stellar Astros pitching staff.

Our John Tomase explained Monday how Sox hitters have benefited from a "take what the pitcher gives you" approach to beat opponents' shifts, and they've had success throughout the entire postseason, not just versus Houston. (They scored 26 runs against the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Division Series despite being shut out in Game 1.) Astros star Carlos Correa also told Rosenthal he doesn't think the Red Sox have their pitching signs.

Erstwhile ace Zack Greinke will attempt to stop the bleeding Tuesday night when he starts for the Astros in Game 4. And if he and catcher Martin Maldonado are a little more secretive in their communication, you'll know why.