The Red Sox eked out a win in Houston on Wednesday night to win Game 4 of the ALCS and put them within a win of the World Series. Eked is the most accurate word here, as Boston truly got out of this one by the skin of their teeth.
Closer Craig Kimbrel once again couldn’t hit his spots and allowed a run and a whole mess of baserunners, loading the bases in the ninth before getting bailed out by his outfield (we’ll get to that in a bit). Somehow he has four saves this postseason despite causing a rash of panic attacks across New England every time he pitches.
But besides Kimbrel’s close calls on the way to a six-out save, there were four other incredibly close plays on both sides that — if fate or Joe West had tipped them the other way — could have easily made it the Astros’ game and tied the series at two with one more game in Houston.
Jose Altuve’s non-home run
If you missed it, we covered why this was called an out and why it was upheld on review here. Long story short: Mookie Betts’ attempted catch at the wall was maybe, possibly interfered with by a fan. And because Joe West initially called it an out due to interference and there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn it on review, the call stood.
A few inches either way changes the whole situation. If Altuve’s home run traveled a little further into the stands as to not make it controversial, fan interference is never a thought. If Betts is a less talented outfielder who doesn’t even make it to the wall to line up the catch, it’s not a close call. If the security guard that blocked what might have been the definitive camera view leaned over a few inches less it might have been a more cut and dry decision.
A.J. Hinch had a cheeky response about it after the game, referencing the cheating allegations against the Astros.
Asked if there should be more cameras for more replay angles, Hinch said: “We started the day with there were too many cameras in the park.”— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) October 18, 2018
This is the play that will get the most coverage over the next few days depending on how the series pans out, which isn’t surprising, but there’s others that similarly could have changed the outcome of the game.
Carlos Correa’s foot off the bag
In the seventh inning, the Red Sox held a 6-5 lead over Houston with one out. Rafael Devers hit a ball to short and Carlos Correa turned what seemed like a double play to end the inning. Second base umpire Mark Wegner, however, noticed that Correa’s foot never touched the bag which was seemingly confirmed with a slow motion replay on the broadcast.
That made it runners on second and third with two outs, and Astros pitcher Ryan Pressly promptly walked two batters to walk in a run. Making it 7-5 before they got out of the inning. Correa’s small mental error was a matter of an inch or less and it could have changed how the final two innings of the game panned out.
Don’t run on Mookie Betts
In the bottom of the eighth, with the Astros at that point down, 8-5, Tony Kemp hit a line drive to right field and tried stretching it into a double. He must have forgotten that one of the most talented outfielders in the league right now was in right field and can make throws like this, right on target without even thinking about it.
Not many people can make a throw like that, but not even Betts could have guaranteed that his throw was going to get Kemp. A inch off target, or a millisecond later getting the ball out of the glove, or Betts taking another half step before throwing and Kemp is safe. It was a heck of a throw but one that had no margin of error if it was going to end with an out.
Alex Bregman would take first after a HBP and George Springer would follow with a double, which would have conceivably brought Kemp home if he was on second at that point. We can’t predict for certain what would have happened if Kemp stayed on base but that’s a run scoring opportunity Houston really could have used. To state the obvious.
Andrew Benintendi’s final out heroics
This is the big one. The most blatant example of the game’s outcome completely changing if things shifted ever so slightly. Andrew Benintendi doing hero things for the final out of the game.
There’s really no speculation here. If Benintendi misses this diving catch the ball gets behind him and the Astros plate three runs pretty easily as long as everyone is running their butts off on contact (which they were). He makes an electrifying play though, securing both the win for the Sox and free drinks in Boston for the next few months at minimum.
Watching it in GIF form it’s more than clear that this dive is flawlessly timed, and if it wasn’t or if he didn’t have the composure to track the ball while also diving in such a high pressure situation then things are totally altered.
Brock Holt had the correctly calibrated reaction to this.
Brock Holt after Andrew Benintendi's game-saving catch: "I gave him a kiss after the game, right on the cheek. I said thank you."— CBS Sports MLB (@CBSSportsMLB) October 18, 2018
The Red Sox won Game 4 thanks to their pitching holding it together (if barely), their bats staying hot (Jackie Bradley Jr. strikes again) and multiple talented defensive plays. These four plays were all a few inches — or less! — from going the Astros’ way and making things an entirely different game.