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