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ALCS G5: Moreland starting; Correa at cleanup

MLB.com

HOUSTON -- The Astros' backs are against the wall. The Red Sox are one win away from the World Series.

Coming off a thrilling 8-6 win in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday night to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, Boston will look to David Price to try to punch its ticket to the Fall Classic in Thursday's Game 5 at Minute Maid Park.

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HOUSTON -- The Astros' backs are against the wall. The Red Sox are one win away from the World Series.

Coming off a thrilling 8-6 win in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday night to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, Boston will look to David Price to try to punch its ticket to the Fall Classic in Thursday's Game 5 at Minute Maid Park.

View Full Game Coverage

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

It won't be easy. The Astros, who won three elimination games in the playoffs last year en route to their first World Series title, are throwing ace Justin Verlander in a matchup of former AL Cy Young Award winners. In the history of best-of-seven series with the 2-3-2 format, teams taking a 3-1 lead on the road have gone on to take the series 37 of 44 times (84 percent).

Gear up for the ALCS: Astros | Red Sox

Starting lineups
Red Sox: The Astros are learning why the Sox had the game's most balanced offense during the regular season. Boston has scored seven runs or more in the past three games, the first time Houston has allowed that many in three straight games all season. First baseman Mitch Moreland will make his first start since he injured his right hamstring in Game 2 of the AL Division Series.

1. Mookie Betts, RF
2. Andrew Benintendi, LF
3. J.D. Martinez, DH
4. Xander Bogaerts, SS
5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
6. Ian Kinsler, 2B
7. Rafael Devers, 3B
8. Christian Vazquez, C
9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Astros: Manager AJ Hinch said prior to Game 4 that Jose Altuve would be back at second base in Game 5 of the ALCS after two games at DH, but Altuve appeared to aggravate his sore right knee sliding into second base and will remain as the DH.

"We're all watching the same guy. I love him for what he's doing and it's really amazing what he's doing," Hinch said. "He's kept it very private, to himself. I don't feel like he can play second base right now. ... He's playing on one leg. Some of our other guys are banged up as well. Jose is the most obviously. If this were the regular season, there's no way he'd be playing."

With Altuve DHing, Tony Kemp will be in left again and Marwin Gonzalez is at second base. In addition, Carlos Correa will be in the cleanup spot after hitting mostly in the seventh spot in the postseason.

1. Alex Bregman, 3B
2. George Springer, RF
3. Jose Altuve, DH
4. Carlos Correa, SS
4. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
5. Marwin Gonzalez, 2B
7. Tony Kemp, LF
8. Martin Maldonado, C
9. Jake Marisnick, CF

Who are the starting pitchers?
Red Sox: This would be a fine time for Price to earn the first postseason win of his career as a starter. It will be interesting to see how the lefty fares on three days' rest, particularly when he spent quite a bit of time warming up in the bullpen in the late stages of Game 4.

"I think it will just make me a little more sharp," Price said. "It might be a new thing for me to do the day before I pitch."

In 11 career postseason starts, Price is 0-9 with a 6.16 ERA. This would be the ultimate chance for Price to get some playoff redemption, with a trip to the World Series serving as the ultimate reward.

Video: ALCS Gm5: Price, Verlander face off in crucial Game 5

"We're one win away from the World Series. That's cool. That's very cool," Price said.

Astros: Verlander held the Red Sox to two hits and two runs, overcoming four walks, while striking out six batters in six innings in a Game 1 win over Boston. That was the 13th career playoff victory for Verlander, trailing only Tom Glavine (14), John Smoltz (15) and Andy Pettitte (19).

Not to mention, Verlander has been sensational with his back to the wall. In five potential elimination-game starts, he has gone 4-1 with a 1.21 ERA, fanning 41 in 37 1/3 innings. In his past three starts under those circumstances, Verlander has been particularly outstanding, tossing 24 scoreless innings.

"There are definitely unique challenges," Verlander said. "They know my strengths. They know my weaknesses. I know theirs. And the second time going against a lineup, you need to adjust. Or you don't. I don't know. That's kind of one of those times when I like to rely on my instincts when I'm out there and just feel my way through a game."

How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Red Sox: Manager Alex Cora asked a lot of his bullpen in the previous three games, and it will be interesting to see how he manages Game 5. The score will have a lot to do with it. If the Red Sox fall behind early, look for Cora to go with his low-leverage pitchers after Price. Closer Craig Kimbrel is 4-for-4 in save opportunities this postseason, but each one has been an adventure. The Sox did ask key setup man Matt Barnes to get just one out in Game 4, so he will be a good option if Boston is in the lead.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Kimbrel seals win with Benintendi's help

Astros: Houston used five relief pitchers in Game 4, with Josh James (51) and Lance McCullers Jr. (33) topping 30 pitches. Hinch didn't use closer Roberto Osuna, who should be ready to go, and even Ryan Pressly and McCullers will take the ball in an elimination game if needed. Starter Gerrit Cole was in the bullpen near the the end of Game 4 as well.

Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Red Sox: Kimbrel threw 35 pitches in Game 4, but he says he will do whatever Cora needs in Game 5. Cora might decide to play it safe with a 3-1 lead in the series. Ryan Brasier faced seven batters and threw 23 pitches, so he is another reliever Cora might stay away from.

Astros: James threw 3 2/3 innings in relief in Game 4, meaning he's out for Game 5 unless there's an emergency. That leaves the Astros with no viable options to throw more than two innings if that situation arises.

Any injuries of note?
Red Sox: Eduardo Nunez has been bothered by a troublesome right ankle, but he could be used as a pinch-hitter against lefty reliever Tony Sipp.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Altuve checked by trainer after long double

Astros: Altuve aggravated his sore right knee sliding into second base in the third inning of Game 4 and ran gingerly the rest of the game.

"He's hurting," Hinch said. "I'm watching him do his best and he's a tough kid. And he's giving us everything that he's got, but he's hurting."

ALCS fun fact: Each of JBJ's big hits have come with two outs

Who is hot and who is not?
Red Sox: Bradley is on an RBI binge, with nine in the series. Interestingly, the RBIs have come on his only three hits of the series … Benintendi, who made a magnificent catch to end Game 4, also had two doubles in the contest and could be on the verge of getting hot … Devers is 4-for-9 and had a key two-run single in Game 4 ... Sandy Leon continues to be in a slump of epic proportions, with three hits in his past 49 at-bats. This is why he probably won't start, even though Price enjoys working with him.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Bradley Jr. belts a go-ahead homer in 6th

Astros: Springer, who's hitting .412 in the ALCS with 13 total bases, has a 13-game postseason hitting streak. … Bregman has reached base safely 11 times in four games of the ALCS with two hits, seven walks and two hit-by-pitches. He has a .550 on-base percentage. … Correa is hitting .400 (6-for-15) in the ALCS. … Kemp is hitting .375 in the ALCS. … Among those struggling at the plate are Gurriel (.176), Maldonado (.111), Reddick (.200) and White (.000).

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros

Hinch: Altuve would otherwise be on DL

All-Star in lineup at DH, 'giving 100 percent' despite knee pain
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- The sore right knee that has plagued Astros second baseman Jose Altuve for the second half of the season is so debilitating that manager AJ Hinch admitted prior to Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Thursday that Altuve would be on the disabled list if this were the regular season.

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HOUSTON -- The sore right knee that has plagued Astros second baseman Jose Altuve for the second half of the season is so debilitating that manager AJ Hinch admitted prior to Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Thursday that Altuve would be on the disabled list if this were the regular season.

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

View Full Game Coverage

"If it was any other time of the year, he wouldn't be in the lineup or wouldn't be playing," Hinch said. "He'd probably be on the DL or under different circumstances. But he's showing up every day, good spirits, ready to go, giving 100 percent of what he's got. And he should be commended and appreciated."

Altuve, last year's AL Most Valuable Player Award winner, injured his right knee sliding into second base in a game at Coors Field in Denver in late July and has played through pain since. The injury forced Altuve to go on the disabled list for the first time in his career, and he aggravated the injury sliding into second base during Game 4 on Wednesday.

Altuve started at second base the first two games of the series before Hinch moved him to designated hitter in Games 3 and 4 to rest his knee. Hinch had hoped to have him back at second base for Game 5, but the knee aggravation made that a non-starter.

"When we went out to see him at second base, we knew he wasn't going to come out of the game, but you've got to give him a little bit of a blow there to take a few seconds to let the pain subside and then the ovation was incredible for that," Hinch said. "So the fans appreciate him, his teammates revere him. The production that he's doing on one leg is pretty incredible. And he's trying not to talk about it. And, therefore, I am."

The Astros haven't given an official diagnosis of what's wrong with the knee, but it's possible he's headed for surgery in the offseason. Despite the injury, Altuve reached base safely in the Astros' first seven games of the postseason, scoring at least one run in six of those games.

Video: ALCS Gm5: Correa on Altuve playing through injury

Kent throws first pitch
Describing himself as a proud and insanely jealous Astros fan, former second baseman Jeff Kent spoke admiringly about the 2018 Houston ballclub while wistfully looking back at his own 17-year Major League career.

Kent loves what the Astros are doing these days. But he also feels pangs, as he did when they won the World Series last year, remembering how close he was to winning a title when he was a player.

"I was a Game 7 loser with the Giants [in 2002], and we were one game away from going to the World Series with the Astros," Kent said. "So yes, I'm proud and grateful that I was part of a program making transitions, but I'm jealous as all get out because I'm a competitor and I wanted it to be me [winning the World Series] and not someone else."

Kent was invited back to Minute Maid Park by the Astros to throw the ceremonial first pitch before Game 5 of the ALCS. Accompanied by his youngest son, 15-year-old Kaeden, Kent reflected fondly on his two seasons with the Astros, who made it to Game 7 of the NLCS before falling to the Cardinals in '04.

Kent hit a memorable home run that postseason, launching a walk-off three-run homer in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the NLCS that put the Astros ahead in the series, 3-2.

"Some of the old folks still remember me around and talk about that," said Kent, who lives near Austin. "It's pretty special. It's not so special anymore, now that these [current] Astros have outdone us all when we were playing, winning the World Series. But yes, it's neat to talk about. It's one of maybe the top three highlights of my career."

Kent, compared to most big leaguers, had a somewhat odd, reclusive personality when he played, opting out of most of the socialization that takes place on a day-to-day basis in the clubhouse over the course of a long season. But he was also known as a fierce competitor who detested losing, and he had a laser-sharp focus that made him one of baseball's more admired teammates.

Kent heaped praise on the current crop of Astros, especially when he was asked specifically about second baseman Jose Altuve, who is contributing mightily this month despite playing with a painful right knee.

"Impressive," Kent said. "His stature, his personality, the way he carries himself, the way he hustles, the way he plays through pain, the way he can shorten his swing up, make his swing big when he has to … he has all the tools.

"I'm jealous, because I wish I had either played with him, or jealous because he's a hell of a ballplayer and he could have been better than I was. And proud, because I wore the Astros uniform, and he's doing the same thing, and he won a championship."

Worth noting
Astros pitchers walked 18 batters in 35 innings in the first four games of the ALCS. That's an uncharacteristic performance from a team that finished fourth in the Major Leagues during the regular season for the fewest walks allowed.

Hinch hinted the high walk total had more to do with the Astros pitching around the zone and the Red Sox hitters doing a good job of being patient rather than Houston's staff suffering from a lack of command.

"Sure, we want to throw perfect strikes," Hinch said. And this lineup will make you be a little more careful than perhaps the 30th-ranked offense. But I just think it's this time of year where everything is so precise and you make a few mistakes along the way and vice versa. The first part of the series, we were drawing all the walks -- Game 1 and part of Game 2. So it's a tough league, a tough series."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Jose Altuve

Top 10 thrills from Sox-Astros instant classic

From dazzling defense to a HR controversy, Game 4 has it all
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- You will never watch a better baseball game, and isn't that the bottom line? Sometimes, this sport -- particularly this sport in October -- delivers something so good we need a day or two to roll it around in our hearts and minds and appreciate what we've just witnessed.

The Red Sox and Astros played this one like a Game 7 because, all things considered, it may end up being almost that important. We may look back a few days from now and see that the American League Championship Series was decided on Wednesday night.

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HOUSTON -- You will never watch a better baseball game, and isn't that the bottom line? Sometimes, this sport -- particularly this sport in October -- delivers something so good we need a day or two to roll it around in our hearts and minds and appreciate what we've just witnessed.

The Red Sox and Astros played this one like a Game 7 because, all things considered, it may end up being almost that important. We may look back a few days from now and see that the American League Championship Series was decided on Wednesday night.

View Full Game Coverage

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

That's why at-bats were tense and long, and a line of relievers -- 10 in all -- paraded in from both bullpens. Plays that were made -- and plenty that weren't -- will gnaw through the offseason.

So hats off to the Red Sox, who twice came from behind and then held on for dear life at the end to beat the Astros, 8-6, in Game 4 of the ALCS at Minute Maid Park.

Boston leads the best-of-seven series, 3-1, and is one victory from its 14th AL pennant. Don't turn out the lights just yet. The Red Sox's pitching has been pushed to the limit -- David Price will start Game 5 on short rest tonight -- and the Astros have aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole lined up for Games 5 and 6.

Postseason gear: Red Sox | Astros

First, though, let's appreciate Game 4 for all its spectacular moments and captivating theater with 10 plays that helped make it an instant classic:

1. Andrew Benintendi flies through the air
This game ended the only way it could: with the Red Sox's left fielder making a sweet diving catch of an Alex Bregman liner with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. How perfect is that? Had he not come up with the ball, the Astros probably win, and the ALCS looks completely different. On an evening when bodies flew here, there and everywhere, flipping over rails, diving across foul lines, when both teams did themselves proud, Benintendi saved the best for last. If you hear a rumor that Red Sox radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione got so excited he fell out of his seat, you didn't hear it here.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Statcast™ measures Benny's game-ending catch

2. Jose Altuve's home run that wasn't
The Astros' second baseman hit a ball just over the wall in right field with a runner on base in the bottom of the first inning. Home run, right? Hey, it's complicated. As Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts leaped near the wall in an attempt to steal the home run, his glove appeared to come into contact with at least a couple of fans. Umpire Joe West believed Betts would have caught the ball if not for the fans and ruled fan interference. A replay review supported his call. The Astros did not agree. More >>

Video: Must C Curious: Altuve out on fan interference

3. Mookie Betts, Gold Glover
Don't run on Mookie. Those two Gold Gloves should be a reminder of that. Houston outfielder Tony Kemp learned that lesson when he led off the bottom of the eighth with a single to right and attempted to stretch it into a double. Betts made a laser throw to shortstop Xander Bogaerts to get Kemp. The Astros trailed by three at the time, and Betts' play probably saved the Red Sox a run.

Video: Must C Cannon: Betts nabs Kemp at second with laser

4. Steve Pearce head over heels into the dugout
No play typified the urgency of this game more than Boston's first baseman flipping over the railing and landing on his back in Houston's dugout in pursuit of a Josh Reddick foul pop in the seventh with the Red Sox leading, 7-5. He didn't get to the ball. Instead, he gave Red Sox Nation a highlight moment to appreciate. More >>

Video: ALCS Gm4: Pearce flips over into Astros' dugout

5. Jackie Bradley Jr. hits another one
The Red Sox's center fielder is making October his personal stage. The Astros had just taken a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth when Bradley came to bat with a runner on base and two outs in the top of the sixth. You can guess the rest. His two-run home run gave him nine RBIs in the ALCS and provided Boston a lead it never relinquished. More >>

Video: Bradley delivers clutch hits in Games 2-4 of ALCS

6. Reddick keeps the Astros in the game
We had so many spectacular defensive plays in this one that they started to feel routine. Reddick made a huge one with a diving grab of a Betts liner in the top of the ninth inning with the bases loaded. It cost the Red Sox at least one run and kept the Astros within striking distance for the bottom of the inning.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Reddick makes a tremendous diving catch

7. Kemp and a different kind of home run
We love home runs that are these big booming shots that rattle the glass in windows and disappear into the night air. That's not the kind the Astros' left fielder hit in the bottom of the fourth inning. He looped a Rick Porcello pitch just over the wall and inside the right-field foul pole. Statcast™ clocked its exit velocity at 89.7 mph, the softest home run in the postseason since the technology arrived in 2015. Still counted. More >>

Video: ALCS Gm4: Kemp hits 89.7-mph HR down right-field line

8. Craig Kimbrel's grit
Boston's closer got the final six outs to do something he'd never done in his nine-year Major League career. That would be a save of more than four outs. Never mind that he has allowed a run in four straight appearances or that looks like someone who could use a couple of days to catch his breath. He helped get the Red Sox to the threshold of a dream.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Kimbrel seals win with Benintendi's help

9. Josh James and 102 mph
The former 34th-round Draft choice of the Astros burst onto the scene late in the season after blowing away hitters in the Minor Leagues. When Houston manager AJ Hinch called upon him in the top of the third inning, his first three pitches were 100.9 mph, 101.2 mph and 102.4 mph. Does that qualify as electric stuff? He's the first Astros pitcher to hit 102 mph in the pitch tracking era (2008-present). More >>

Video: ALCS Gm4: James K's Devers on 5 100-plus-mph pitches

10. Altuve is doing that Willis Reed thing
Altuve refuses to give in to a knee injury that has left him with a pronounced limp and forced Hinch to use him as a DH. Yet he still continues to hit and hustle. Altuve legged out a third-inning double and hit the second-base bag so hard he needed a few minutes to walk off the pain and remain in the game. He hustled home on a Reddick single moments later.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Altuve checked by trainer after long double

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, Jose Altuve, Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Josh James, Jackie Bradley Jr., Tony Kemp, Craig Kimbrel, Steve Pearce, Josh Reddick

Saturday LCS game time could change

MLB.com

As a result of two competitive League Championship Series, we have two "if necessary" games currently scheduled for Saturday. That means that game times could shift depending on how many games need to be played.

Here is how it breaks down.

As a result of two competitive League Championship Series, we have two "if necessary" games currently scheduled for Saturday. That means that game times could shift depending on how many games need to be played.

Here is how it breaks down.

SATURDAY SCHEDULE

If there are two games:
ALCS G6: HOU-BOS, 5:09 p.m. ET (TBS)
NLCS G7: LAD-MIL, 9:09 p.m. ET (FS1)

If the NLCS is over:
ALCS G6: HOU-BOS, 8:09 p.m. ET (TBS)

If the ALCS is over:
NLCS G7: LAD-MIL, 8:09 p.m. ET (FS1)

Milwaukee Brewers, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros

What you didn't see from Mookie Betts' home run robbery that wasn't

The best game of the postseason played out on Wednesday night, as the Red Sox and Astros combined for a game of nonstop back-and-forth action for nine innings in Boston's 8-6 win. It was three fire emojis from the very start with an amazing almost-home-run robbery from Mookie Betts that was ruled fan interference in the bottom of the first inning. 

What do you need to know from the play? What did you miss? Don't worry, we've got you covered.

Season on the line after topsy-turvy Game 4

MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve thought he had homered, but he hadn't. A Minute Maid Park crowd that had been whipped into a joyful frenzy was now seeing red. An Astros team that thought it had tied Game 4 of the American League Championship Series in the first inning was now still trailing a game it desperately needed to win.

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HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve thought he had homered, but he hadn't. A Minute Maid Park crowd that had been whipped into a joyful frenzy was now seeing red. An Astros team that thought it had tied Game 4 of the American League Championship Series in the first inning was now still trailing a game it desperately needed to win.

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

View Full Game Coverage

The Astros faced incredible adversity, beginning with a controversial call in the first inning that wiped out a potential home run, plus an abbreviated start by pitcher Charlie Morton and another clutch hit by Jackie Bradley Jr., but couldn't quite overcome it all. Now their season is on the line.

The Red Sox again showed the resiliency of a team that won 108 games in the regular season and pushed the defending World Series champions to the brink of elimination on Wednesday night, beating the Astros in an 8-6 thriller to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

"Two tremendous teams going at it," shortstop Carlos Correa said. "It was well-played baseball. They came up with the win. I had some flashbacks of Game 5 of the World Series last year. That's the type of game it was. Nobody gave up. We didn't win, but it was a great game."

The Astros will give the ball to Cy Young Award candidate Justin Verlander in Game 5 on Thursday night in Houston trying to keep their season alive. He'll face former teammate David Price in a battle for past Cy Young Award winners.

"Only one way to respond: We have to win. And we have to go to Boston and win two," outfielder Josh Reddick said. "So that's the only way I have to look at it. We have to have the mindset of putting the last three behind us and come out here and be ready to win tomorrow and go to Boston and win two there."

In the history of best-of-seven series with the 2-3-2 format, teams taking a 3-1 lead on the road have gone on to take the series 37 of 44 times (84 percent).

"I'm going to back my boys," manager AJ Hinch said. "We're a really good team, and this has been a really tough series."

Video: ALCS Gm4: Hinch on difficult Game 4 loss to Red Sox

After battling for more than 4 1/2 hours on a magical night of baseball in downtown Houston, the Red Sox still had to hold off the Astros in the ninth to win. With the bases loaded and two outs, Alex Bregman hit a sinking liner to left field that was caught by a diving Andrew Benintendi to end the game as Craig Kimbrel held on for a two-inning save. The catch probability for Benintendi was 21 percent, according to Statcast™.

"I felt like I got a good jump on it," Benintendi said. "It wasn't hit that hard. I got in on it real good. I don't know, I thought I could catch it. I timed it up well. That's when it was either do or die. I'm glad I caught it."

Video: ALCS Gm4: Hinch on Benintendi's game-ending catch

The Astros' offense went 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13 on base, and their pitchers couldn't keep the Red Sox off the bases. Boston had 11 hits, drew seven walks and had two batters reach on a hit-by-pitch.

"They're a relentless lineup," Hinch said. "So are we. The game was incredibly good on both sides -- great at-bats, great plays. Obviously, we were inches away from the ball going to the wall. We probably win, and it's a completely different press conference. But that's now how the game played out."

Video: ALCS Gm4: Betts, Martinez advance on wild pitch

The Red Sox scored twice in the first inning for the third game in a row, this time taking advantage of a wild Morton, who was rusty in his first outing since Sept. 30. The Astros appeared to have tied the score in the bottom of the first, when Altuve hit a long fly ball to right that Mookie Betts couldn't corral as he reached high above the yellow line.

Fan interferes with Betts on potential Altuve HR

Joe West, the right-field umpire, immediately called fan interference because the ball hit the side of Betts' glove, along with the hand of an Astros fan. Following a review, the call stood, meaning Altuve was out instead of celebrating a game-tying homer.

Video: Must C Curious: Altuve out on fan interference

"It's tough," Altuve said. "When I hit the ball, I was expecting to tie the game. I thought I did. I ran the bases, and they call me out. It's a tough night. I was trying just to help my team to win. It was two runs right there in the first inning that would have helped us a little bit."

The game turned into a back-and-forth affair, with the Astros tying it in the third on a solo homer by George Springer and an RBI single by Reddick. Tony Kemp hit a homer to right field to start the fourth and put Houston ahead, 4-3. The Astros led, 5-4, after five innings before Bradley delivered another dagger with a two-run homer off Josh James to give Boston a 6-5 lead.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Springer crushes a solo home run in 3rd

Nolan Ryan watches Josh James throw 102 mph

James, the rookie reliever who electrified the crowd by hitting 102-mph early in his 3 2/3-inning outing, recorded two outs to start the sixth before Christian Vazquez doubled off the glove of Springer in right-center and Bradley homered. That gave Bradley nine RBIs in the series, including a decisive three-double in Game 2 and a grand slam in Game 3 that put away the game.

"Good players step up in big situations," Springer said. "I don't care what your stats are in season, or what your stats are now, it's all about at-bat to at-bat. He's had three good swings against us. Hats off to him."

Even reliever Ryan Pressly, who allowed two runs in 23 1/3 innings after coming over in a trade with Minnesota, uncharacteristically walked a pair of batters in the seventh and left with the bases loaded. Brock Holt followed with a walk against Lance McCullers Jr. to force in a run. An RBI single in the eighth by J.D. Martinez made it 8-5 and made the Astros' path back to the World Series even harder.

"I don't know why, but I feel we've been in this situation," Altuve said. "We came last year from New York down, 3-2 [in the ALCS]. It's different. It's a new year, but we have a pretty confident team. I'm not doubting everybody here is going to show up tomorrow and try to do everything they can to win, and that's the most important thing."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Kemp greeted Kimbrel, the All-Star closer, with a base hit into the right-field corner in the eighth but was thrown out at second by Betts in what Hinch called "an aggressive mistake." It was especially costly, considering Kimbrel proceeded to hit Bregman with a pitch and then Springer followed with a double that would have scored Kemp. As it turns out, the only run the Astros scored in the eighth came on a groundout by Altuve.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Betts throws out Kemp with perfect throw

"It's one of those plays where you're down by three and in hindsight you want to say you should probably hold up at first base and see what happens," Kemp said. "But you know, hindsight's 20-20. If I get on second base and he bobbles that ball and the next guy gets a hit and we're down by two, then what do you say? He made an unbelievable throw. That's why he has a Gold Glove."

SOUND SMART
The 23 runs allowed by the Astros in three consecutive losses to the Red Sox in the ALCS are their most given up in any three-game stretch this year.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
James hit 102.4 mph during the game, the second-fastest tracked pitch of this postseason behind Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees. In fact, he's the first Astros pitcher to hit 102 mph in the pitch-tracking era (2008-present).

Video: ALCS Gm4: James K's Devers on 5 100-plus-mph pitches

HE SAID IT
"I was hoping that he takes that at-bat. He's that kind of guy. He dreams about those situations. I was rooting for him. He hit the ball really good, and Benintendi made a five-star play right there." -- Altuve, on Bregman

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The first-inning call that wiped out Altuve's home run loomed large the entire game. The Astros trailed, 2-0, when Altuve sent a long fly ball off Rick Porcello that looked to have reached the seats in right field. The ball appeared to hit Betts' glove in home run territory before it caromed back onto the field, but West called interference on the play, as a fan's hands made contact with Betts' glove, possibly causing it to close and preventing him from completing the catch. A crew-chief review could not definitely determine if the fan had reached into the field of play, and the call would stand. Altuve was called out, and Springer, who had singled to right-center, was sent back to first base.

"I've got zero control, so it's hard for me to say something when it doesn't matter what I said," Altuve said. "They're not going to change it. I normally don't get mad about umpires' calls. That one I was a little upset. I looked at the replay, and it's tough. That's the only thing I can say. It's really hard."

Video: ALCS Gm4: Hinch on fan interference call on Altuve

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros

MLB Network hosts sweepstakes to see CMAs

Two winners will head to Nashville with Millar, Leiter
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Beyond the cowboy hat he's already picked out, Kevin Millar is looking for suggestions for what to wear the night of the Country Music Awards. There's some pressure, obviously, given that he coined the phrase "Cowboy Up" 14 years ago during the Red Sox's mad dash to their first World Series title in 86 years, making it that much more imperative that he wind up as a "fashion do" when he attends the awards show on Nov. 14 in Nashville, Tenn.

Maybe Millar, a star on MLB Network, can consult his guests for the evening about what to wear. Two lucky sweepstakes winners will attend the CMAs, courtesy of MLB Network, as special guests of two of the Network's most popular hosts -- Millar and former Major League pitcher Al Leiter.

HOUSTON -- Beyond the cowboy hat he's already picked out, Kevin Millar is looking for suggestions for what to wear the night of the Country Music Awards. There's some pressure, obviously, given that he coined the phrase "Cowboy Up" 14 years ago during the Red Sox's mad dash to their first World Series title in 86 years, making it that much more imperative that he wind up as a "fashion do" when he attends the awards show on Nov. 14 in Nashville, Tenn.

Maybe Millar, a star on MLB Network, can consult his guests for the evening about what to wear. Two lucky sweepstakes winners will attend the CMAs, courtesy of MLB Network, as special guests of two of the Network's most popular hosts -- Millar and former Major League pitcher Al Leiter.

The sweepstakes promotion is ongoing and will continue through Thursday, Oct. 25. Fans can win an all-expenses paid trip to the CMAs by logging on to https://www.mlb.com/forms/mlb-cma-awards and entering a code word that is revealed daily on MLB Network's late-afternoon show "Intentional Talk."

Enter for a chance to win

Given the fandom that exists between athletes and musicians, the promotion is a perfect pairing. Country music is a favorite genre among a large population of ballplayers, and several of today's biggest names in country music once had aspirations to grow up to be ballplayers.

In that respect, the CMAs seem like a good meeting spot.

"Whether it's Kevin and his cowboy boots or me in the car with the radio turned up, we all dream about being up on stage," Leiter said. "I am a huge country music fan, and I am excited to get the chance to invite a fellow fan to come to the [Country Music] Awards with Kevin and me."

Whoever wins the sweepstakes will be spending time with two former players who have played a combined 1,846 games over 31 Major League seasons. Millar played for the Marlins, Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays during a 12-year career that extended from 1998-2009, and Leiter spent 19 Major League seasons with the Yankees, Blue Jays, Marlins and Mets from 1987-2005.

They have three World Series championships between them -- Leiter won with the Jays in 1993 and Marlins in '97, while Millar earned his ring with the Red Sox in 2004.

Many country stars have played in baseball stadium venues in the past, including the Zac Brown Band, Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, the Eli Young Band, Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt, Jon Pardi and Chris Stapleton. Chesney has said in the past that as a kid growing up nowhere near a Major League stadium in Tennessee, he got his baseball fix by watching the "Game of the Week" on Saturdays after taking in an episode of "This Week in Baseball."

As a result, Chesney was exposed to a slew of Reds and Red Sox games. Maybe that's why he and Millar are such good friends today. They may even meet up when they're in Nashville for the award.

"I'm sure we're going to have some fun down there, you know what I'm saying?" Millar said on a recent episode of "Intentional Talk." "Yee-haw!"

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Fan interferes with Betts on potential Altuve HR

MLB.com

HOUSTON -- It took less than 30 minutes into the Red Sox's 8-6 victory over the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park to give everyone something to talk about.

The Astros trailed, 2-0, in the first inning when Jose Altuve sent a long fly ball off Rick Porcello that looked to have reached the seats in right field for a game-tying homer. The ball appeared to hit Mookie Betts' outstretched glove in home run territory before it caromed back onto the field, but crew chief Joe West, manning the right-field line, called interference on the play as a fan's hands made contact with Betts' glove, possibly causing it to close and preventing him from completing the catch.

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- It took less than 30 minutes into the Red Sox's 8-6 victory over the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park to give everyone something to talk about.

The Astros trailed, 2-0, in the first inning when Jose Altuve sent a long fly ball off Rick Porcello that looked to have reached the seats in right field for a game-tying homer. The ball appeared to hit Mookie Betts' outstretched glove in home run territory before it caromed back onto the field, but crew chief Joe West, manning the right-field line, called interference on the play as a fan's hands made contact with Betts' glove, possibly causing it to close and preventing him from completing the catch.

View Full Game Coverage

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

A crew-chief review could not definitely determine if the fan had reached into the field of play and the call would stand. Altuve was called out, and George Springer, who had singled to right-center, was sent back to first base.

"I've got zero control, so it's hard for me to say something when it doesn't matter what I said," Altuve said. "They're not going to change it. I normally don't get mad about umpires' calls. That one I was a little upset.

"I looked at the replay and it's tough. That's the only thing I can say. It's really hard."

Betts said he felt the fan's hand just as he was about to make the catch.

"I got a good jump on it, and I was pretty positive I was going to be able to catch it," he said. "But as I jumped and went over, reached my hand up, I felt like somebody was kind of pushing my glove out of the way or something. And I got to see a little bit of the replay. I guess they were going to catch the ball and pushed my glove out of the way."

West, speaking with a pool reporter after the game was over, said: "[Altuve] hit the ball to right field. [Betts] jumped up to try to make a catch. The fan interfered with him over the playing field. That's why I called spectator interference."

Asked what he saw that prompted the initial interference call, West said, "Well, when [Betts] jumped up to reach for the ball, the spectator reached out of the stands and hit him over the playing field and closed his glove."

Video: ALCS Gm4: Betts on fan interference, almost catch

The official rule states:

(e) (3.16) Spectator Interference: When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.

APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.

Further, Rule 6.01(e) states: No interference shall be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence, railing, rope or into a stand to catch a ball. He does so at his own risk. However, should a spectator reach out on the playing field side of such fence, railing or rope, and plainly prevent the fielder from catching the ball, then the batsman should be called out for the spectator's interference.

There is no doubt that the call had a major impact on the game, and we have the numbers to prove it. According to win expectancy data provided by Tom Tango, had the ball been ruled a home run, the Astros' win expectancy would have jumped to 52.6 percent. But because it was an out, their win expectancy fell to 31.7 percent, a drop of more than 20 percentage points.

Part of the issue may have been the lack of a proper camera angle in the ballpark to make a definitive determination about where the ball was when Betts was attempting to catch it.

Tweet from @Mike_Ferrin: Screen shot from TBS of why they likely didn���t have a ���definitive��� look at Betts glove in the crowd pic.twitter.com/HZKuqMRhSW

"We have a replay system and we have the video," manager AJ Hinch said. "But it doesn't matter what we think, anyway. They're going to tell us what they want to rule."

The furthest Hinch would go when pressed about the ball's location was to repeat his observation that the umpiring and replay crews saw it the way they did, and that was that.

"I asked for a review," Hinch said. "And, obviously, they're going to give it to us. And they reviewed it and came back with the same outcome. So once the fan reaches past that line of the fence, I mean, we're going to penalize hitters every time. And so that changed the whole inning."

Video: ALCS Gm4: Hinch on fan interference call on Altuve

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said his first thought was that Altuve would be called out.

"[Betts] didn't reach over the fence; he was actually parallel with the wall," Cora said. "That's the rule and we got the out."

Postseason close calls involving fans

Instead of tying the game, the Astros ended the inning without scoring.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Cora on fan interference on Altuve's HR

"I was expecting that ball to go out," Altuve said. "The moment I saw the ball on the warning track, I said, 'OK, that's a double.' Two runs, the game ended up two runs, that makes me a little bit more upset."

The play, and the call, sparked a large response on social media, from a wide range of people watching either in person or at home on TV.

"Wow! I agree with call, just can't believe they got it right! Kudos to replay. Bet they have taller fences in Houston next yr." tweeted Hall of Famer Chipper Jones.

"Couldn't agree more. Make taller fences. Betts was going to catch it." former Brave Jeff Francoeur tweeted.

Tweet from @JeffFrancoeur: Couldn���t agree more. Make taller fences. Betts was going to catch it. https://t.co/KSoRz9ipnN

"That would've been an amazing catch by Betts!!!! They better call Altuve out." tweeted former All-Star pitcher Mark Mulder.

Video: Watch an extended cut of the crucial fan interference

Hinch, though, had arguably the best line of the night. Asked if they needed more cameras in the park to be able to see the best angles, Hinch deadpanned, "Yeah, earlier we started the day with, 'Do we have too many cameras in the park," a reference to the sign-stealing controversy that engulfed the pregame conversation. "So, yeah, I wish we had an angle that was perfectly along the fence line that would show. That's the one camera that we don't have."

Video: ALCS Gm4: Astros on fan interference call

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros

Astros' Bukauskas displays dominant stuff in AFL

MLB.com

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Forrest Whitley, baseball's best pitching prospect, has been the talk of the Arizona Fall League in the early season. But he's not the only Astros first-rounder who looks ready to make an impact at the big league level in the near future.

Fellow right-hander J.B. Bukauskas, the 15th overall pick in 2017 out of North Carolina, also has dominant stuff. He put it on display Thursday afternoon, throwing four shutout innings to lead the Scottsdale Scorpions to an 8-0 victory over the Peoria Javelinas.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Forrest Whitley, baseball's best pitching prospect, has been the talk of the Arizona Fall League in the early season. But he's not the only Astros first-rounder who looks ready to make an impact at the big league level in the near future.

Fellow right-hander J.B. Bukauskas, the 15th overall pick in 2017 out of North Carolina, also has dominant stuff. He put it on display Thursday afternoon, throwing four shutout innings to lead the Scottsdale Scorpions to an 8-0 victory over the Peoria Javelinas.

Gameday

Bukauskas, the Astros' No. 8 prospect allowed only two hits (one a double lost in the sun) and one walk while striking out four. He was efficient, throwing 36 of 58 pitches for strikes. In two AFL outings, he has permitted just one run while fanning nine in seven innings.

Against the Javelinas, Bukauskas worked at 94-96 mph and hit 98 mph with his fastball. His mid-80s slider lived up to its reputation as a wipeout pitch, and he also mixed in a few promising changeups with depth and a couple of cutters.

"I think the slider was probably my best pitch today," Bukauskas said. "The other night I really didn't have it with me. The changeup, I threw a couple good ones. I'm still working on developing that. I threw a couple of good cutter reps too that I was really happy with ...

"The slider is kind of my go-to. I think it has been for a while. If I have a good feel for it on the day, I'm going to lean pretty heavily on it."

Bukauskas also dominated during his first full pro season, posting a 2.14 ERA with 71 strikeouts and a .199 opponent average in 59 innings. But it didn't unfold as planned, because he got in an automobile accident during Spring Training that left him with a slipped disc in his back and limited him to three appearances in the first three months of the season. He wound up pitching at five different levels and said he jumped at the chance to get more work in during the Fall League.

"It was pretty frustrating but once I got going in the second half, I was pretty happy with the way things were going," Bukauskas said. "It limited me a lot. Getting to come out here and face this great competition has been awesome. I'm really fortunate I got the opportunity and just want to make the most of it right now."

The Scorpions took control of the game with six runs in the second inning, stringing together five singles, a walk and a hit batter against right-hander Jeremy Walker (Braves). Desmond Lindsay (Mets), Alfredo Rodriguez (Reds) and Darick Hall (Phillies) all contributed singles during the frame en route to two-hit days. Hall drove in three runs, two on an RBI single in the second and another on a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

Lucius Fox (Rays) collected two of the Javelinas' seven hits, dropping his batting average slightly to .407. Fox ranks first in the league in runs (eight), second in hits (11), third in steals (five) and fifth in batting.

Scottsdale improved to 5-3, tied with the Mesa Solar Sox atop the East Division. Peoria dropped to 5-3, sharing the best record in the Fall League with those two clubs and holding a one-game lead over the Surprise Saguaros in the West.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Houston Astros

Kemp's HR softest tracked in postseason

Solo shot to right field exits at 89.7 mph per Statcast
MLB.com

If the past two Octobers have taught us anything, it's to expect just about everything in postseason games at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros' home park has produced some instant classics recently, and the Red Sox's 8-6 victory Wednesday night in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series was another one that featured a ton of lead changes and close calls near the outfield fences.

View Full Game Coverage

If the past two Octobers have taught us anything, it's to expect just about everything in postseason games at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros' home park has produced some instant classics recently, and the Red Sox's 8-6 victory Wednesday night in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series was another one that featured a ton of lead changes and close calls near the outfield fences.

View Full Game Coverage

Minute Maid's bandbox dimensions in the corners and low outfield walls make the park ripe for batted-ball drama, and we saw that in Game 4 -- not only with a fan-interference call in the first inning on a ball hit by Jose Altuve, but also on Tony Kemp's solo shot that put the Astros ahead, 4-3, in the fourth.

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

Kemp, the No. 9 batter in Houston's lineup, lofted a fly ball off Red Sox starter Rick Porcello that kept carrying toward the 326-foot sign in the right-field corner. It cleared the fence by just a few feet, giving Houston a big homer from an unlikely source -- and making some Statcast™ history in the process.

Gear up for the ALCS

Here are a few things you should know about Kemp's unlikely blast:

• Kemp's 89.7-mph exit velocity marked the softest tracked on any postseason home run by Statcast™ since the technology came online in 2015. The previous "record" was a 90.4-mph dinger hit by Boston's Andrew Benintendi -- against the Astros -- in Game 4 of the 2017 AL Division Series.

• Kemp struck it with a high 36-degree launch angle, making it seem even more unlikely that his drive cleared the fence. Over the first three seasons of Statcast™ data from 2015-17, 155 balls were struck with a 90-mph exit velocity, 36-degree launch angle combination. Only five of those batted balls fell for hits, and just one of them was a home run.

• Statcast™ had tracked 44 home runs since 2015 that were hit with an exit velocity less than or equal to 90 mph entering Wednesday. Twelve of those 44 (27.3 percent) were struck at Minute Maid Park, far and away the most of any ballpark, ahead of Fenway Park, Globe Life Park, Great American Ball Park, Tropicana Field and Yankee Stadium.

• There were 807 regular-season and postseason homers tracked by Statcast™ at Minute Maid Park from the start of 2015 through Wednesday, and 127 of them were not classified as either a barrel or solid contact ball -- the two batted ball types that most often lead to homers, per Statcast™'s classifications. That comes out to 15.7 percent of the dinger total in Houston, which is the highest rate of any park in the Majors.

• While this was an extreme example, it also was true to form for the 5-foot-6, 165-pound Kemp. He hit five of his six home runs away from Minute Maid Park this season, but none of them reached the 100-mph exit velocity mark or was projected to fly farther than 375 feet. Kemp's average home run exit velocity of 95.7 mph was the lowest among 336 players who went deep at least five times in 2018.

• Many fans will remember that this is not the first unlikely postseason homer hit at Minute Maid. Astros shortstop Carlos Correa hit the highest tater of 2017 at a towering 48 degrees in Houston's instant-classic 13-12 victory over the Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series. Only four homers tracked by Statcast™ had been hit with that high a launch angle before Correa, and only three more were hit that high during the '18 regular season.

Video: WS2017 Gm5: Correa launches highest 2017 Statcast™ HR

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Houston Astros, Tony Kemp

Morton off mark after long layoff, exits in 3rd

Red Sox pounce for 3 runs in righty's first outing of postseason
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- The Astros didn't know what they were going to get from right-hander Charlie Morton on Wednesday night, considering he hadn't yet appeared in the postseason, and his last two regular-season outings didn't last very long.

So it wasn't a huge surprise that Morton, one of the key cogs in the Astros' World Series run a year ago, didn't last very long in his start against the Red Sox in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, which the Red Sox won, 8-6.

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HOUSTON -- The Astros didn't know what they were going to get from right-hander Charlie Morton on Wednesday night, considering he hadn't yet appeared in the postseason, and his last two regular-season outings didn't last very long.

So it wasn't a huge surprise that Morton, one of the key cogs in the Astros' World Series run a year ago, didn't last very long in his start against the Red Sox in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, which the Red Sox won, 8-6.

View Full Game Coverage

He stayed in long enough to record one out in the third. Over a 53-pitch outing, he yielded three hits and three runs, walking two and striking out two. He left the game with the Astros trailing, 3-1.

:: ALCS schedule and results ::

"He did the best he could," manager AJ Hinch said. "And I applaud him out there as well. I think fatigue set in pretty quickly for him. I thought he ran out of gas a little bit, which is why I got Josh [James] in there. But I thought he did his best."

"Not good," Morton said. "The command wasn't there in really anything. I didn't really know how my stuff looked."

Morton spent the last weeks of the regular season battling shoulder soreness. He left his second-to-last start after one inning, and threw three frames in Baltimore on Sept. 30 as more of an endurance test that wasn't expected to last long.

So asking him to shake off the rust enough to face a hot Boston lineup that was relentless in the first three games of the ALCS was probably a bit much.

"I expected Charlie to get into the third or fourth inning," Hinch said. "That was about the range. The game played out, minus the runs, as expected for him. I thought he did his best."

Morton hit Mookie Betts, the first batter he faced. After recording an out, he walked J.D. Martinez before throwing a wild pitch to advance the runners and allowing a two-run base hit to Rafael Devers.

Andrew Benintendi doubled to lead off the third, and after Morton's second wild pitch, Xander Bogaerts doubled just inside the third-base line. Morton was replaced by long reliever James, who finished the inning without allowing further damage. The Astros scored a pair in the bottom of the third to tie the game and take Morton off the hook.

Video: ALCS Gm4: Charlie Morton on poor ALCS outing

Gear up for the ALCS

"I thought it was OK in the first inning," Morton said. "That pitch to Devers just didn't get that down enough. Base hit brings in two runs and in the third inning, just hung a curveball.

"Fastball command [was] not good. If you can't throw strikes with your heater or locate your heater, you try to work ahead and I wasn't. It was just all around not good."

The outing matched the shortest start by an Astros pitcher in LCS play. Pete Munro worked 2 1/3 innings in Houston's 6-4 loss to the Cardinals in Game 6 of the 2004 NLCS.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Houston Astros, Charlie Morton

Nolan Ryan had a front-row seat to Josh James' 102-mph flame-throwing in ALCS Game 4

For 27 seasons, Nolan Ryan put on a show every time he took the mound. Seven no-hitters, 5,714 strikeouts, a million frustrated and totally overmatched hitters. He was on another level, and possessed a fastball that was known to reach triple-digits.

The same can be said for Josh James, the Astros' young hurler who appeared in six games down the stretch this season for Houston and impressed enough to earn a spot on the postseason roster. In Wednesday's ALCS Game 4 showdown with the Red Sox at Minute Maid Park, James relieved Charlie Morton and fired a bunch of ridiculous pitches, like a 92-mph changeup thrown harder than some pitchers' fastballs.