HOUSTON -- Minute Maid Park was sold out and the roof was closed for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, but one could hear the proverbial pin drop while the crowd waited for the ball to land in Tony Kemp's glove in left field in the third inning of Tuesday's 8-2 Astros loss to the Red Sox.
Judging from the final score, one play that saved a run or two doesn't seem like much. But at the time, Boston was ahead, 2-1, and pitch counts for both starters were quickly climbing. Kemp's catch helped put an end to an inning that was starting to unravel a bit for Dallas Keuchel, who issued two-out walks to J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts before facing the hot-hitting Steve Pearce.
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The ball Pearce hit looked at first to be a not-so-long fly ball that would die somewhere around the warning track in left field. But the ball kept carrying, and as it sailed toward the wall, it hung up long enough for the 5-foot-6 Kemp to scamper over, feel for the wall with his non-glove hand and leap into the air to make the catch.
"We've seen some acrobatic catches out of him in left field and center field when he's been out there," Houston manager AJ Hinch said. "And at the time, it's a game-changer. That's a completely different inning if he hits that ball a foot further or if Tony can't get up on the wall and make that catch."
Kemp said he knew before the game began that the ball might carry a little differently. He noticed a couple of window panels that sit behind the train in the outfield were open, which creates a draft and can alter the trajectory of a fly ball.
"It was a little chilly out there today," said Kemp, who was the shortest player to man a Major League outfield spot this season. "Maybe it's because there were more fans in the ballpark and they didn't want it to get too hot in there. But there was a draft in the outfield and the ball was carrying differently."
And what looked like an easy warning-track out turned into something much more complicated.
"I was able to find my bearings back there and put my hand to the wall and make a pretty good catch," Kemp said.
As Kemp drifted further to the wall -- which is unpadded and serves as the out-of-town scoreboard -- he worked to time the catch as perfectly as possible.
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"Going back to the wall, pretty much I just have the countdown in my head," Kemp said. "Once the ball goes up, and as it's at the apex and it's coming down, you know how far the ball is going to reach the wall, so you have to make sure the ball doesn't touch the wall in any way you can."
After the out call, Red Sox manager Alex Cora challenged it, disputing whether it was actually a catch without any contact with the wall. After a very brief review, the catch was confirmed.
Kemp acknowledged that while his glove did hit the wall, the ball was already firmly in hand. He didn't wait around for the official ruling from the umpires.
"There was no question," Kemp said. "I was already down in the tunnel. I knew I caught the ball."
Asked where this ranked among the most acrobatic catches he has made, Kemp paused for a moment to think about it.
"Top 15," Kemp concluded.