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
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.
:: 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."
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.
"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."
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.
"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.
"That would've been an amazing catch by Betts!!!! They better call Altuve out." tweeted former All-Star pitcher Mark Mulder.
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."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.