Thursday afternoon, the Oakland Athletics are trying again to keep their season alive against the Houston Astros (GameTracker). The Astros hold a 2-1 series lead in the best-of-five ALDS. The A’s came from behind to win Game 3 on Wednesday to force Game 4 on Thursday.

Oakland jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in Game 4 thanks to a Ramon Laureano three-run home run. Laureano, you may remember, had some serious beef with the Astros earlier this season. It led to a benches-clearing incident between the two teams and a record 20-game suspension for Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron.

Here is Laureano’s three-run homer off Zack Greinke:

Immediately prior to the pitch, television cameras caught Greinke flashing a ✌ to catcher Martin Maldonado. It looked — only looked, I emphasize — like Greinke was giving Maldonado the sign and telling him which pitch he wanted to throw. Laureano would of course have been able to see that.

Zack Greinke flashed a “two” before giving up a home run Thursday.
TBS

To state the obvious, Greinke is almost certainly not telling everyone what pitch was coming. Yeah, there’s always something like a 0.0001 percent chance he is giving the sign, but nah. Two is traditionally the sign for a curveball, and the home run came on a slider that didn’t slide. Not a good pitch at all. Laureano didn’t need the sign to crush it.

My guess is Greinke was relaying something about the sign sequence. All teams use multiple signs these days, mostly because they are paranoid about sign-stealing (ahem, Astros), so pitchers and catchers keep a little card with various sign sequences on their person. The two probably refers to the specific sign sequence Greinke wanted to use there.

Several big league pitchers chimed in to say that no, Greinke did not tell everyone what pitch was coming.

Greinke, it should be noted, has been doing this pretty much all season. He’s been flashing fingers from the mound for weeks, and at one point in August he even yelled out “second set after one” and “second set after two” during a game, according to MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. That refers to the sequence. Second pitch after two, so on and so forth.

“There was a man on second base and it got all messed up and it took longer than I was hoping it would take,” Greinke told McTaggart in August “It’s 50 percent my fault and 50 percent Maldy’s fault … I don’t like taking a long time with a man on second base especially. I’m trying to find a way to speed that up. So far this year, it’s been good. It got messed up today.”  

What Greinke was actually doing there is one thing. What it looks like he was doing is another, and yeah, it looks like he flashed out a sign and let everyone know what was coming, then gave up a homer. Looks bad! And the court of public opinion has already ruled on it. Greinke flashed the sign and threw the pitch. The actual explanation will be lost on many. So it goes.

Greinke has been dealing with arm soreness recently — he labored through four innings in his Wild Card Series start against the Twins (only one run allowed through) and had a 5.73 ERA in his final seven regular season starts — and it was unclear whether he’d even be able to start in the ALDS. He is making Thursday’s start on eight days’ rest.

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