Unwritten rules lead to hard feelings in Astros-A’s game

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As you’ve probably heard, the A’s racked up seven runs in the first inning of their 11-3 win over the Astros on Friday night, knocking starter Jarred Cosart out of the game. That frame only ended when Jed Lowrie, batting for the second time in the inning with a man on, aimed for a bunt single against the shift and was thrown out at first.

Even though the bunt didn’t work and actually helped Houston’s cause, the Astros didn’t take too kindly to it. Paul Clemens’ very first pitch the next time Lowrie was up in the third was aimed at his knee and ended up right between his legs. The second was thrown inside, too. Eventually, Lowrie flew out to left-center and exchanged some words with Jose Altuve as he was taking off his batting gloves by the first base bag, at which point Astros manager Bo Porter exited the dugout and shouted at Lowrie and pointed as if to tell him to take his position.

So, yeah, we have an unwritten rule thing going on here.

The rule is that Lowrie shouldn’t have bunted. Even though it’s the first inning, and the Astros, while lousy, are still a major league team capable of scoring seven runs over the course of eight innings. Not that they’ve done so this year or anything, but capable, probably.

No, what Lowrie was supposed to do was to go up looking for a single.  Because swinging from the heels in that situation is also in violation of the unwritten rules. Also, it can’t be a cheap single, like a bunt. It has to be a legitimate single. Of course, the shift-happy Astros have their fielders in the absolute best position they can to deny Lowrie singles. But that’s just his tough luck.

This is why I can’t stand unwritten rules.

In my head, the best way to respect the opposing team is to go out there and play the absolute best game you can. If it were the eighth inning, then, yeah, bunting for a hit in a 7-0 game would be bush league. But in the first inning? Heck no. And I think the Astros waive all rights to be upset about this kind of thing when they’re still putting on the shift, something they continued to do long after Lowrie’s bunt. If you’re trying to take away the half of the field a player usually hits to, you can’t get all huffy when he tries to use the open area you’re giving him.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.