For a moment, Jose Altuve thought he had tied Game 4 of the American League Championship Series for the Houston Astros with a deep ball off of Boston Red Sox starter Rick Porcello.
The ball traveled above the right field wall, where Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts made a play, but didn’t come up with the grab. The ball bounced off his glove and back into the field of play.
Betts’ glove collides with fans
When Betts reached for the ball, he was met with a throng of hands of fans in the first row.
Joe West eventually calls out on the field
Umpire Joe West hesitated before calling Altuve out. A replay review concluded that the call would stand. There was not enough evidence on the field to overturn the call on the field. Altuve was out because of fan interference.
The Red Sox had a 2-0 lead at the time of the play. George Springer was on first when Altuve took the plate. Had it been ruled a home run, the game would have been tied at 2-2. The Astros did not score in the inning.
The Red Sox would go on to an 8-6 win.
Interference rules in play
Two rules appear to be at play here.
Rule 3.16 states that “If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire should declare the batter out.”
From MLB Rulebook …
Joe West 3.16 says you're out. pic.twitter.com/LGK1BjKfPY
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 18, 2018
Rule 6.01 (e) declares that “no interference shall be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence railing, rope or into a stand to catch a ball.”
Rule 6.01(e) in the MLB rule book pic.twitter.com/rhQ4EDs6fh
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) October 18, 2018
This ruling would imply that had Betts reached into the stands, then interference would not be in play.
A.J. Hinch not happy with West’s call
Astros manager A.J. Hinch talked about the play in an in-game interview with TBS. He was not pleased.
“He just said there was fan interference on the field,” Hinch said of West’s explanation to him for the call. “My argument was more about the fact that the ball was leaving the yard. The trajectory was there.
“Jose paid the ultimate price for something out of his control. I’m not sure Mookie makes that catch. He’s a great athlete. But how it’s an assumed out is unbelievable.”
Hard call to overturn via replay
It was a very close play at the wall. Betts’ glove clearly closed when it made contact with a fan. It’s difficult to tell if Betts reached into the stands or the fans reached over the wall or if they met directly at the wall.
It’s reasonable to reach the conclusion that there wasn’t strong enough evidence to overturn the call.
Had West ruled it a home run on the field, we may have ended up with a 2-2 game in the bottom of the first.
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