When virtually the same Marlins lineup which struck out 11 times against Aaron Harang last week at Turner Field pounced on him for 10 hits and a career-high nine runs on Wednesday night in Miami, he and the Braves had their suspicions.
Nobody came out and accused the Marlins of relaying signs, but it was safe to say eyebrows were raised. Harang had alluded to the possibility in his postgame comments, saying: “It was baffling, like, where were these guys last week? They were way too comfortable. It seemed like they were all hitting like Ted Williams.”
Given that Alex Wood had come into this series with a 1.54 ERA and gave up seven earned runs in five innings on Tuesday night, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez acknowledged that by the early innings Wednesday night, the Braves’ dugout broke out in conspiracies theories – wondering if the Marlins were stealing signs, or at the very least, Harang or catcher Evan Gattis was tipping them.
“If you would have taken a look at our dugout at one point in the game, it was like the fourth or fifth inning, they were hitting balls everywhere, we got three guys looking at the scoreboard,” Gonzalez said. “You got two guys looking at their bullpen. I’m calling (bullpen coach) Eddie (Perez), ‘Eddie do you see anything?’ I’m looking at Gattis, thinking he’s maybe tipping his pitches. Carlos (Tosca) is looking in the bench over there, maybe somebody is whistling or something.”
Gonzalez said he changed signs five times during the course of Harang’s outing and went to multiple signs even with no runners on base. The hits kept coming regardless.
Gonzalez said he wondered if Gattis was giving away signs, but then figured that wouldn’t account for the disparity in the Marlins home/road splits in general. Entering play Thursday, the Marlins were hitting .307 while scoring 6.3 runs per game at Marlins Park. They were hitting .215 with 2.7 runs per game on the road.
“Yeah, you have this conspiracy theory, but at the end, we came up with nothing,” Gonzalez said. “It wasn’t like we saw a guy with the (binoculars), like Mick Billmeyer (former Phillies bullpen coach) in Colorado. At the end of the day, they didn’t miss the pitches. They were right there.”
Gonzalez was laughing when he told the story Thursday afternoon in the Braves dugout, describing how the Braves went so far as to look at the sculpture in left center field, wondering if there was somebody hiding in there with a camera.
“There was one guy sitting (in outfield seats) who had a red hat and an orange shirt,” Gonzalez said. “I said ‘Boy that’s a bad combination to have. I told (Jordan) Schafer and (Tyler) Pastornicky to keep an eye on that guy over there.’ The guy got up, went to get a coke.”
“…It was crazy for four innings. And then all of a sudden the relievers come in and boom, boom, boom.”
David Hale, Luis Avilan and Gus Schlosser gave up five hits combined but no runs. That left Gonzalez wondering if Harang had been tipping his pitches. Gonzalez and pitching coach Roger McDowell looked at video of both Harang and Wood on Thursday afternoon. Harang planned to do the same thing.
“They were looking bad on some pitches and they were standing up on some other ones like they knew what was coming,” Harang said. “I’ll go back and watch tape and see if it’s maybe something I’m doing.”