Altuve Homer That Wasn’t: Country Joe Got It Right
Here we go… Houston Astros fans bemoaning their lack of a chance to repeat as World Series champions because of a supposed blown call by first base umpire Joe West.
West is known as “Country Joe” for his forays into country music, which thankfully have been preserved forever on YouTube. Game 4 of the American League Championship Series with the Boston Red Sox will also be preserved forever but for an entirely different reason. The play of course is the blast in the first inning by Houston second baseman Jose Altuve that ended up hitting the outside of Boston right fielder Moonie Betts’ glove as it collided with two fans’ hands somewhere in the neighborhood of the right field wall. West immediately called fan interference. Upon review league officials could not conclude definitively that West’s call was incorrect. Altuve couldn’t believe it. Astros’ manager AJ Hinch couldn’t either. It didn’t help that one of the videos available of the play showed only the backside of a security guard who was trying to get a better view. Fans en masse held their hands on their heads in shock.
As it turns out they shouldn’t have been.
There are two vantage points available at mlb.com that–when taken together– show the ball had not traveled into the stands as Betts touched it and the fans touched his glove. Had the ball made it over the wall and into the stands, before Betts touched it, it would have been a home run. Fans have the right to catch the ball once it crosses the wall and do not have to give a fielder access to it. But in the picture taken from behind West’s vantage point, you can see a gentleman in a white shirt obviously reaching out over the fence and into the field of play. This was after the ball and made contact with Betts’ glove. On the other picture from Betts’ right you can see the same fan with his hand outstretched over the wall as the two fans next to him are reaching out past his hand. Taken together with Betts’ being nowhere near the wall as he jumped for the love, it’s obvious that there was interference with the attempt to catch the ball.
West made the right call, which is pretty impressive considering his sizable frame was running down the first baseline towards the fence at the time. So cowboy hats off to West and to Houston on another great season. Sure it ended before a lot of people anticpated. But, this one play did not end their chances of repeating as world champions. They’re inability to pitch out of the stretch with runners on did: 27 runs allowed in 19 innings. The team ERA I such situations was about twice what the Brewers, Dodgers, and Red Sox had in championship series play through Friday.
It was a symptom of a bigger problem.The starters weren’t up to snuff. Charlie Morton gave up three runs in 2.1. Gerrit Cole gave up four earned in six innings and Justin Verlander gave up four in Game 5. And parts of their bullpen: Josh James and Rafael Osuna had ERAs north of way too many.
And then the offense didn’t help. George Springer hit .750 with runners on, Carlos Correa hit .500 and Alex Bregman hit .250 worth four walks. Other than those three? Only six hits.
Joe West didn’t beat the Astros. Boston did and Houston beat itself.