Red Sox benefit from controversial call at home plate in win over Astros

BOSTON, MA - September 9: Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros reacts after he is tagged out at home plate in the seventh inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on September 9, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - September 9: Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros reacts after he is tagged out at home plate in the seventh inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on September 9, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox may have stolen a victory due to a blown call at home plate and the Houston Astros are not pleased about it.

Sometimes instant reply works in your team’s favor, other times it can cost you. Then there are cases where it leaves you scratching your head. The Boston Red Sox certainly aren’t complaining about the latest controversial review but the Houston Astros are ticked off about it.

They might have good reason to be.

The controversy occurred in the seventh inning of a tie game Sunday night. Jose Altuve led off with a bunt base hit that ended with him standing at second base due to a throwing error by Brandon Phillips. Two batters later, Sandy Leon failed to keep a knuckleball from Steven Wright in front of him, allowing Altuve to advance to third on a passed ball with only one out.

Boston pulled the infield in, ready to prevent the runner from scoring on a ground ball. That’s exactly what they got, as Wright got Yuli Gurriel to hit a chopper right to shortstop Xander Bogaerts. Altuve raced home anyway and should have been out easily but the throw from Bogaerts sailed a bit. Leon made an acrobatic move to reach for the catch and swipe down toward Altuve as he slid into home plate.

The call on the field was an out but the Astros weren’t so sure and called for a review. After a delay of several minutes, the umpires revealed that the call would stand.

It remained a tie game and the Red Sox would go on to win on a ninth-inning walk-off base hit from Mitch Moreland. Boston narrowly avoided a sweep and built a bit of confidence against a team they may face again in October.

MLB replay officials took their time reviewing the play and still got it wrong as far as the Astros are concerned.

"“It’s frustrating in situations like that where clearly he hadn’t put the tag on when his hand was on the plate,” Astros starter Dallas Keuchel said after the game, via KRIV-TV’s Mark Berman. ” … It would be nice for MLB to come out with an explanation with that call and if they don’t it looks a little suspicious.”"

Suspicious may be taking it a bit far as it implies that the umpires conspired to rob the Astros. That almost certainly isn’t what happened. This seems to be a case where replay officials couldn’t find enough clear evidence from the available camera angles to overturn the call.

"“He did get in there. It’s clear as day,” added Astros manager A.J. Hinch. “We felt like we have clear evidence. ”"

There’s no doubt that it was a close call. From the various replays televised on the ESPN broadcast, it appeared that Altuve was probably safe but it has hardly indisputable. Did Altuve touch the plate or did his hand slide right over it? At what point does Leon make contact with his glove? Even with the benefit of slow-motion replay, it’s not obvious.

Careful analysis of a freeze frame image caught at the right moment does seem to show that Altuve was safe. That’s what Astros outfielder Josh Reddick posted on his Twitter account. Take a look at the image. There appears to be a sliver of distance between Leon’s glove and Altuve’s shoulder with the runner’s hand touching the plate.

So yeah… even Red Sox fans have to admit that Altuve should have been ruled safe. However, the call wasn’t as clear on video as it is in this image. If there is any doubt in the mind of the replay official, they have to stick with the call on the field.

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The Astros have a right to be upset but this one call didn’t decide the game. We don’t know if the Astros would have tacked on more runs in that seventh inning if they had another out to work with. If not, they would have been up by one when the Red Sox rallied in the ninth. Moreland would have then tied the game with his base hit rather than win it but the Red Sox would still have two runners on with two outs in the ninth. Who’s to say they don’t end up with a walk-off win anyway?

Boston had some beef with a few calls as well, particularly with the generous strike zone of the home plate umpire. Christian Vazquez was visibly upset with a called strike that was several inches off the plate. The ESPN broadcast crew agreed with his complaints and their 3D K-Zone showed how obviously outside the pitch was. When A-Rod is coming to the defense of the Red Sox, you know the umpires got it wrong.

Mookie Betts hit a routine fly out to lead off the ninth, one pitch after what would have been ball four had a questionable call low and away not been called a strike. If the umpire got it right and Betts reached safely, it further supports the notion that the Red Sox would have rallied for the win even if Altuve had been ruled safe two innings earlier.

The Astros were victims of a bad call and sloppy play by the Red Sox in that inning should have been costly. However, bad calls benefited both sides so the losing team was going to have a gripe with the umpires either way.

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Boston may have won the game even without the aid of reply officials but the controversy should make things even more interesting if these teams meet again in the postseason.