Red Sox hold on for huge win in game defined by an Astros home run that wasn't

HOUSTON – The bottom of the ninth inning of the best game this October was dizzying. There were two outs. Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel was running on fumes. The bases were loaded. Houston Astros star Alex Bregman stood at the plate. It was a fitting bookend for a dizzying game that started with a controversial call.

On the first pitch, Bregman lined a shot to left field, where Andrew Benintendi charged, laid out, made an incredible catch and put the Red Sox one victory from the World Series. With an 8-6 victory in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday, the Red Sox held on by the razor-thin margin of Benintendi’s glove, which if not for the series would be tied.

Instead, bolstered by the first six-out save of Kimbrel’s career – and Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s daring choice to stick with him instead of going to the warmed-up David Price – Boston is on the cusp of the World Series and the defending-champion Astros needing to win Thursday’s Game 5 and two more in Boston.

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Controversial fan interference called in ALCS Game 4
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Controversial fan interference called in ALCS Game 4
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 17: A fan interferes with Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox as he attempts to catch a ball hit by Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros (not pictured) in the first inning during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 17: A fan interferes with Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox as he attempts to catch a ball hit by Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros (not pictured) in the first inning during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 17: A fan interferes with Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox as he attempts to catch a ball hit by Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros (not pictured) in the first inning during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 17: A fan interferes with Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox as he attempts to catch a ball hit by Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros (not pictured) in the first inning during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 17: A fan interferes with Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox as he attempts to catch a ball hit by Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros (not pictured) in the first inning during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 17: A general view of the section where fan interference occured in the first inning as Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox (not pictured) attempted to catch a ball hit by Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros (not pictured) during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
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The wild, up-and-down 4-hour, 33-minute game began with controversy, as a first-inning ball hit by Astros second baseman Jose Altuve went over the right-field wall – and was ruled an out by umpire Joe West, a call upheld by replay review, much to the consternation of a rowdy 43,277 at Minute Maid Park.

While the introduction of instant replay was supposed to remedy situations like those that unfolded in the first, its fallibility was evident with the home run that wasn’t. Though the permutations of the game would have obviously gone far differently had the ruling on Altuve’s swing been different, the fact that the margin of the Astros’ loss matched the number of runs they thought were robbed from them made it sting nevertheless.

With a runner on first, Altuve lifted a Rick Porcello pitch to deep right field. Mookie Betts, the Red Sox’s Gold Glove outfielder, tracked it. He jumped at the wall, and his momentum took his glove over it, where it closed after colliding with a fan. The ball caromed off another fan. West, the longest-tenured umpire in the game, ruled it an out, believing there was fan interference. Replay review neither confirmed nor overturned the call; because there was not clear evidence of what actually happened, the call stood.

See more from the postseason so far: 

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The best photos from the 2018 MLB Postseason
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The best photos from the 2018 MLB Postseason
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 28: Christian Vazquez #7 jumps into the arms of Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox to celebrate their 5-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Five to win the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 23: The dugout reacts as Eduardo Nunez #36 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates his three-run home run during the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game One of the 2018 World Series at Fenway Park on October 23, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 17: A fan interferes with Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox as he attempts to catch a ball hit by Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros (not pictured) in the first inning during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 18: Craig Kimbrel #46 and Christian Vazquez #7 of the Boston Red Sox celebrate and hug after defeating the Houston Astros in Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 18, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
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HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 16: Tony Kemp #18 of the Houston Astros catches a deep fly ball against the left field wall in the third inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game Three of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 16, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 17: Yasiel Puig #66 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after hitting a RBI single in the sixth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers in Game Five of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun celebrates after scoring on a ball hit by Jesus Aguilar during the first inning of Game 6 of the National League Championship Series baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw warms up before Game 5 of the National League Championship Series baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Milwaukee Brewers' Orlando Arcia scores from first on a double by Domingo Santana during the fifth inning of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, in Los Angeles.(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig (66) breaks a bat after striking out during the seventh inning of Game 2 of the National League Championship Series baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Milwaukee Brewers' Orlando Arcia celebrates his home run with third base coach Ed Sedar during the fifth inning of Game 2 of the National League Championship Series baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Houston Astros center fielder George Springer, right, and shortstop Carlos Correa celebrate their win against the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of a baseball American League Championship Series on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, in Boston. The Astros won 7-2. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Houston Astros' Carlos Correa celebrates after his RBI-single against the Boston Red Sox during the sixth inning in Game 1 of a baseball American League Championship Series on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Boston Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello celebrates after the last out in the top of the eighth inning in Game 2 of a baseball American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Los Angeles Dodgers' Enrique Hernandez makes a play on a ball hit by Milwaukee Brewers' Lorenzo Cain during the first inning of Game 2 of the National League Championship Series baseball game Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Enrique Hernandez (14) fields a grounder by Milwaukee Brewers' Lorenzo Cain during the first inning of Game 2 of the National League Championship Series baseball game Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 8: Brock Holt #12 of the Boston Red Sox is doused with Gatorade after hitting for the cycle after game three of the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees on October 8, 2018 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Colorado Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu walks off the field at the end of the fourth inning of Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Oct 9, 2018; Bronx, NY, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Steve Pearce (25) reaches for the ball to get the last out on New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres (25) in game four of the 2018 ALDS playoff baseball series at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki (24) celebrates the last out against Los Angeles Dodgers Brian Dozier after the ninth inning of Game 3 of MLB baseball's National League Division Series, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Atlanta. The Atlanta Braves won 6-5. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Atlanta Braves left fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) celebrates the team's victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers after the ninth inning in Game 3 of MLB baseball's National League Division Series, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Atlanta. The Atlanta Braves won 6-5. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Milwaukee Brewers' Erik Kratz reacts after scoring on a wild pitch thrown by Colorado Rockies reliever Scott Oberg in the sixth inning of Game 3 of a baseball National League Division Series, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)
Boston Red Sox's Christian Vazquez reacts as he rounds first base after connecting for a solo home run against the New York Yankees during the fourth inning of Game 4 of baseball's American League Division Series, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) and third baseman Eduardo Nunez celebrate after the Red Sox beat the New York Yankees 4-3 in Game 4 of baseball's American League Division Series, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Houston Astros' Alex Bregman (2) scores on teammate Marwin Gonzalez's hit as Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes, left, fields a throw during the sixth inning of Game 2 of a baseball American League Division Series, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, right, scores past the tag of Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes, left, during the sixth inning of Game 2 of a baseball American League Division Series, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Los Angeles Dodgers' Manny Machado celebrates his two-run home run against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning of Game 2 of a baseball National League Division Series on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 05: Pitcher Jeremy Jeffress #32 of the Milwaukee Brewers celebrates the last out of Game Two of the National League Division Series against the Colorado Rockies at Miller Park on October 5, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Brewers won the game with a score of 4-0 and lead the series 2-0. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 05: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox jumps to avoid Luke Voit #45 of the New York Yankees while turing the double play in the second inning of Game One of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park on October 5, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 05: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates after retiring the side in the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves during Game Two of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 05: Carlos Correa #1 and George Springer #4 of the Houston Astros celebrate after defeating the Cleveland Indians 7-2 in Game One of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park on October 5, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 08: Francisco Lindor #12 of the Cleveland Indians reacts after hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning against the Houston Astros during Game Three of the American League Division Series at Progressive Field on October 8, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 07: Freddie Freeman #5 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during Game Three of the National League Division Series at SunTrust Park on October 7, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 06: Alex Bregman #2 of the Houston Astros slides safely past the tag from Yan Gomes #7 of the Cleveland Indians to score a run in the sixth inning of Game Two of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park on October 6, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 02: Scott Oberg #45 and Tony Wolters #14 of the Colorado Rockies celebrate defeating the Chicago Cubs 2-1 in thirteen innings to win the National League Wild Card Game at Wrigley Field on October 2, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 04: Yasiel Puig #66 of the Los Angeles Dodgers runs to third base during the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves during Game One of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 4, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Beyond the comedy of the best camera angle being obstructed by a security guard leaning over and blocking the down-the-fence view was unmitigated controversy. The MLB rulebook is clear: If a player goes into the stands attempting to catch a ball, fan interference cannot be called – unless a fan reached over the fence or clearly, intentionally obstructed the play. None of the camera angles available showed a good enough angle to give the umpires at MLB’s replay center in New York a reason to overturn West’s call.

That specter hung over what was otherwise a back-and-forth game that ended a harrowing 30 hours for the Astros, in which they lost Game 3, received absolution from MLB for deploying a credentialed worker to monitor the dugouts of their Division Series opponent and the Red Sox using a cellphone, and then blew two leads in Game 4.

Their first game on Tony Kemp’s fourth-inning home run. The Astros had clawed back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 with an RBI single from Carlos Correa, a George Springer home run and a run-scoring Josh Reddick single. Kemp yanked a ball down the right-field line off Porcello to give Houston a 4-3 lead.

After Xander Bogaerts’ RBI single tied the game, Correa pushed the Astros ahead with another RBI single, part of a standout 3-for-4 game. That lead, too, wouldn’t last an inning.

In the top of the sixth, Jackie Bradley Jr. – who was a hero in Game 2 with a go-ahead three-run double and Game 3 with a game-sealing grand slam – pummeled a first-pitch changeup from rookie Josh James into right field for a two-run homer that put the Red Sox ahead, 6-5. They tacked on runs in the seventh with a bases-loaded walk by Brock Holt and the eighth when J.D. Martinez scored Betts on a single up the middle.

Handed an 8-5 lead, Kimbrel ceded a run in the eighth and went to the mound to get the last three outs following an incredible diving catch by Reddick with the bases loaded that ended the top of the ninth.

Shaky throughout the postseason, Kimbrel worked through the landmines of the ninth. The Astros would lament the game, perhaps understandably, but lamentations in October do teams no good. The game is not about what could’ve been or should’ve been. It’s what was. And when the last out was recorded at 12:15 a.m., it was the third straight ALCS victory for Boston and a season on the brink for the Astros.




 

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