The Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros were tied 2-2 in the top of the ninth inning in Game 4 of the ALCS. The Astros started the inning in promising fashion when Carlos Correa hit a double off Boston pitcher Nathan Eovaldi to leadoff the frame. Eovaldi then struck out Houston’s Kyle Tucker, issued an intentional walk to Yuli Gurriel, and struck out Aledmys Díaz on a swinging strike.
Eovaldi faced then Jason Castro with two on and two outs. With Boston holding a 2-1 series lead and playing at Fenway Park, the stage was set for the most dramatic moment of the series.
Castro took strike one. Eovaldi looked like he threw another strike on the second pitch of the at-bat on a fastball, but it was called high for ball one. Castro then fouled off a pitch for strike two. Eovaldi went to his curveball for the next pitch, and it sure looked like it should have been a strike. Instead, home plate umpire Laz Diaz called it a ball.
Two pitches later, Castro singled in the go-ahead run. The Astros would go on to score seven runs in the frame all with two outs, with four of those runs credited to Eovaldi.
The Astros won, 9-2, to tie the ALCS at 2-2.
Here’s the missed third strike call by Diaz. If it’s a strike, the Red Sox are going into the bottom of the ninth tied, with the chance take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
That should have been a strike. Red Sox fans aren’t going to forget that one.
Here’s a look at every pitch in the at-bat. Pitch No. 4 is the one in question.
Missed calls happen, of course. We’ve seen MLB umpires have some regrettable moments in this postseason already. The bigger issue is that Diaz was an inaccurate home plate umpire all year, and he missed so many more calls than Eovaldi’s fourth pitch to Castro in the ninth inning.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Diaz missed 23 calls behind home plate on the night. As Passan said in his follow up tweet: 12 of them were on pitches thrown by the Red Sox, and 11 were on pitches thrown by the Astros, so it’s not like Diaz was favoring Houston. He was just bad all around.
Home-plate umpire Laz Diaz has missed 21 ball-strike calls tonight, according to @ESPNStatsInfo. That is the most of any umpire this postseason. The green dot in the upper RH corner is the Eovaldi curveball that would've ended top of the ninth with the score 2-2.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 20, 2021
It is now 9-2. pic.twitter.com/VzdyL4lth3
Who could have seen this coming? Well, a lot of people.
Diaz was pretty brutal as a home plate umpire all year according to the numbers:
Laz Diaz will call balls and strikes in game 4 of the ALCS. He was one of the worst home plate umpires in MLB this year. Bottom 6% in accuracy, bottom 12% in consistency. Buckle up. https://t.co/hBwxMlsZ5w pic.twitter.com/ws7SOzufEB— The Astros Locker (@TheAstrosLocker) October 15, 2021
An umpire with that type of profile probably shouldn’t be behind home plate in Game 4 of the ALCS. If only Major League Baseball was sharp enough to realize that.
The Red Sox and Astros are now going to Game 5 at Fenway with the series tied. The last two games of the series are at Houston. If the Red Sox fail to win the pennant, Diaz’s rough night behind the plate will be a sore subject in Boston for a long time.