WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP)Away from their friendly cocoon, Alex Bregman and some of the bigger names on the Houston Astros are about to see – and hear – how fans really feel about what happened.
No hooting or hollering at Houston’s most prominent sign stealers Sunday. Once again, the primary offenders were out of the Astros’ lineup.
For the second straight day, Astros manager Dusty Baker didn’t start any of his stars against Washington Nationals at the spring training park the teams share.
”It seems like a bit of a cop out to me,” Nationals fan Josh Kohn said. ”This is the first two games of spring training. This is what the guys in MLB live for. They want to be out there. I have to imagine even the players are a little upset that they can’t play today, but I understand why they are not out there.”
Kohn also attended Saturday night’s rained-out Grapefruit League opener between these same clubs, wearing a shirt that read ”bang foul poles, not trash cans” – an homage to Howie Kendrick’s home run in Game 7 of the World Series that gave Washington the lead over the Astros for good.
Several Astros fans asked Kohn to pose for pictures with them.
”I don’t think we have as much grief with them because we beat them,” Kohn said. ”If we lost it would be different. The Dodgers are pretty upset. I think it’s nice that we can start the season off like, Hey guys, remember what happened last year?”
Jose Altuve, Bregman, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel – all starters in 2017 – are expected to make their exhibition debuts on Monday when Houston travels to Lakeland to face Detroit. The trip takes over 2 1/2 hours each way.
Though Houston was technically the visitor on Sunday, the game against the Tigers will be the Astros’ first true road game of the spring.
In January, Major League Baseball stripped the Astros of their top draft choices for the next two seasons, and suspended manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow – the pair subsequently fired – following an investigation that found Houston players illegally stole signs during their 2017 World Series championship season and again in 2018.
Even without the stars being on the field Sunday, some fans couldn’t resist yelling their disapproval.
Dressed in a Yankees T-shirt and cap, Ron Scelfo shouted ”Let’s go cheaters” as Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker walked to the plate for the game’s first at-bat.
Other fans sporadically yelled ”cheaters” at quiet points early in the contest.
”What they did was cheating,” Scelfo said. ”The World Series should be taken away from them – the World Series title.”
As per policy, Ballpark of the Palm Beaches staffers prevented a couple fans from entering with signs, though some fans wrote makeshift messages on sheets of paper once inside the gates. One sign that did elude stadium officials and found its way behind the Nationals dugout read ”we are the champions of the world.”
Washington general manager Mike Rizzo and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman hoisted the World Series trophy as part of a pregame ceremony. The Nationals raised a flag beyond the right-center field wall touting the 2019 title, doing so as many of the Astros – the team they defeated to win the championship – made their way from the clubhouse and down the left field line to their dugout.
The loudest ovation of the afternoon came when Kendrick batted for the first time.
”The fans, I’m glad that they appreciate what we’ve done, and it shows,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. ”I think the players enjoy it. They feed off of it. Kudos to the fans.”
Washington’s split squad won the game 2-1 on Brandon Snyder’s walk-off RBI single.
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