Of all the wild plays in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, it’s obvious which one will be re-hashed the most.
In the first inning of the Boston Red Sox’s clash with the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park, Jose Altuve hit a deep fly ball to right field that Mookie Betts failed to catch as his glove made contact with a fan in the front row. After a video review, umpiring crew chief Joe West deemed the play fan interference and called Altuve out, erasing what would have been a game-tying home run.
Did West make the right call? According to Major League Baseball Rule 3.16, if a spectator reaches into the field of play and “plainly prevent(s) the fielder from catching the ball,” the batter should be ruled out. So, it comes down to whether the fan reached over the yellow line on top of the outfield fence or not.
That fan, Troy Caldwell, spoke to a few media outlets after the play — and insisted he stayed on his side of the wall.
“I didn’t reach over the wall; I was on this side of the line,” Caldwell told the Houston Chronicle. “I don’t understand what happened. I know the rules, and I didn’t reach over the line.”
Caldwell also told ESPN that while the ball hit his hand, he didn’t make contact with Betts’ glove, claiming a fan next to him hit Betts’ glove while going for the ball.
So, how did things unfold from Betts’ point of view?
“I was just kind of going back, and I got a good jump on it. And I was pretty positive I was going to be able to catch it,” Betts said after Boston’s 8-6 win, as transcribed by ASAP Sports. “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.”
The angle of the video replays made it difficult to determine whether Betts crossed the “plane” of the outfield wall while reaching up to make the catch. But in any case, he definitely felt he would have made the play had he not been interfered with.
“That was a ball I could catch,” he added. “I’m 100 percent positive I was going to be able to catch that one.”
Astros fans likely will disagree, but West seemed pretty definitive in his call. Now, Houston finds its own back against the wall in a must-win Game 5 on Thursday night.
Thumbnail photo via John Glaser/USA TODAY Sports Images