Houston: Jose Altuve was sure he’d hit a tying home run for the Houston Astros in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series. He thought it was a double, at least, when he watched the ball ricochet back onto the field.
Then, he saw the signal: He was out, and couldn’t believe it.
Altuve’s potential homer was wiped away when umpire Joe West ruled that fans reaching for the ball interfered with Boston right fielder Mookie Betts attempting to make a leaping catch.
Now Houston’s chances to repeat as World Series champions are nearly out of reach after an 8-6 loss on Wednesday night that put the Red Sox ahead 3-1 in the best-of-seven matchup.
“I normally don’t get mad at the umpire’s call. That one, I was a little upset,” Altuve said. “All of a sudden, it wasn’t even a double, it was an out. Two runs the game ended up… that make me a little bit more upset.”
Denied Altuve’s two-run drive in the first inning, the Astros wound up falling two runs short.
“That’s just a tough call right now,” said Houston’s George Springer, who later homered over that same wall. “I understand it’s not easy to make that call. You would like to see a two-run homer be a two-run homer, especially to tie the game.”
West, the crew chief working the right-field line at Minute Maid Park, signalled fan interference after Betts was unable to make a jumping grab. Fans made contact with Betts’ glove, though it wasn’t clear if they had reached over the fence.
The call stood after a replay review that lasted 3 minutes, 13 seconds. Altuve was ruled out and Springer was sent back to first base.
West told a pool reporter the ball had not crossed the top of the wall when “the spectator reached out of the stands and hit him over the playing field and closed his glove.”
Betts, one of the best defenders in the majors, said he had it all the way.
“That was a ball I could catch. I’m 100 per cent positive I was going to be able to catch that one,” he said.
“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,” Betts said.
A fan wearing an orange Astros jersey, who identified himself as Troy Caldwell, insisted he wasn’t reaching out over the yellow line atop the 7-foot-high fence when the ball hit his hand.
“That ball was gone no matter what,” said Caldwell, a lifelong Astros fan from Houston who now lives in Atlanta.