CLEVELAND — The Houston Astros may be defending more than their World Series title.
The champions are under scrutiny after Cleveland filed a complaint to Major League Baseball about a man associated with Houston attempting to film in the Indians' dugout during Game 3 of the AL Division Series last week.
During the Astros' series-clinching win on Oct. 8 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, a man with a cellphone standing by the photographer's pit was removed "several times" by security personnel, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Tuesday night. The man's credential was requested by Houston, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
MLB also says it is aware of a report by Metro Boston that a man claiming to be an Astros employee was removed from a credentialed area near the Boston Red Sox dugout during the AL Championship Series opener at Fenway Park. The Red Sox dropped the series opener but have won the past two to take a 2-1 lead.
In a statement, MLB said the matter "will be handled internally" and offered no other details.
While it's yet to be proven if the Astros were doing anything illegal, the two incidents have raised further questions about the use of electronic equipment during games and whether Houston has been cheating.
According to the Metro report, which cited multiple security sources who were on the scene, a man was removed during the third inning of Game 1 on Saturday night at Fenway Park but allowed to stay in the ballpark after another Astros staffer intervened. The report said the man had a small camera and was texting frequently, but did not have a media credential.
Houston manager AJ Hinch and Red Sox manager Alex Cora both said after Boston's 8-2 win Tuesday night in Houston they had heard about the alleged incident.
"I'm aware of something going on, but I haven't been briefed," Hinch said. "I'm worried about the game."
Cora said he has been concerned throughout the season about Red Sox signs being stolen.
"So I mean we do a good job changing sequences and paying attention to details. And we don't get caught up on the whole paranoia thing of the signs," he said. "We try to slow it down. If we feel there's something going on we switch the signs."
When asked if he felt like anything was going on the first two ALCS games at Fenway Park, Cora responded, "No, I don't."
This isn't the first time the Astros have been suspected of cheating.
Earlier this season, Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer intimated on Twitter that Houston's pitchers may have been using banned substances to improve the spin on their pitches. Bauer didn't provide any specifics but his insinuations triggered a social-media storm, which included responses from several Astros players, including pitchers Lance McCullers Jr. and Collin McHugh.
The Indians were swept by the Astros, who after winning twice at home, rolled to an 11-3 win in Game 3. Cleveland was eliminated in the first round for the second year in a row as the AL Central champions batted just .144 as a team and some of the club's top hitters, including All-Star second baseman Jose Ramirez, had brutal series. Ramirez went hitless in 11 at-bats.
Following the game,
"We were just outplayed," Kipnis said. "I wish it weren't that simple. It just seems from top to bottom we were out-scouted, out-pitched, out-coached a little bit. They really did just a fantastic job over there of being ready and prepared before the series. I don't think we were underprepared, they just went out and executed and played the way you need to play to win."
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Tom Withers, The Associated Press