Umpire Laz Diaz had rough night behind the plate in ALCS Game 4
How did the Red Sox land with their Game 4 debacle Tuesday night? There were plenty of reasons.
Start with the team's vaunted offense, which managed just two runs on three hits heading into the ninth inning, not having scored a run since Xander Bogaerts' two-run homer in the first.
Go to the poor execution by a couple of key Red Sox relievers. First it was Garrett Whitlock letting the Astros tie things up with a leadoff homer in the eighth inning by Jose Altuve, and then Nathan Eovaldi allowed the difference-making two-run single from Jason Castro in what would turn into a seven-run frame.
But even though all of that is very real, it doesn't make the sting of Laz Diaz any less painful.
The home plate umpire had a horrific evening in what would ultimately be an Astros 9-2 win, tying the best-of-seven American League Championship Series up at 2-2.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, Diaz missed 21 calls. Twenty-one! But there was one, in particular, which Red Sox followers will - and should - highlight above all others. That was the backdoor curveball thrown by Eovaldi to Castro with two outs in the ninth, two runners on, the game tied and the count 1-2.
The potential inning-ending strike was called a ball. Two pitches later, Castro took advantage of the second chance, plating two runs with his line-drive single.
"Yeah, I thought it was a strike, but, again, I'm in the moment," Eovaldi said. "I'm trying to make my pitches. I'm attacking the zone. I mean, he came in the ninth inning. I gave up a double to (Carlos) Correa, and I tried to go to work there and tried to get some outs, and prevent him from scoring. I had two strikeouts, and then facing Castro I felt like I was in control of the at-bat. I felt like I made a good pitch on the outside corner, and it didn't go my way, but I got to come back and I got to answer back and make another good pitch. I threw a fastball, and he fouled it off, and I went with the splitter. I had a good feel for it tonight, and he put a good swing on it and got a base hit."
"I got to take a look," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora of the pivotal pitch. "Yeah. A lot of people thought it was a strike."
One earlier in the game that Cora didn't have to take another look at was a called third strike to J.D. Martinez in the third inning with a runner on second. That pitch was one that everyone from the hitter, to his dugout and even perhaps Houston catcher Martin Maldonado believed was a miss by Diaz.
"I got to take a look at the video and see how it went," said Cora of the ninth-inning Eovaldi pitch. "I haven't had a chance to take a look at it. Like I said, I really disagreed with the one early on. It was the third inning, and 3-2 count. J.D. is very -- he doesn't argue too much, and the way he reacted, you know, I had to jump right away. I don't want him to get thrown out.
"We disagreed with that one, so I know it's early in the game, but it's first and second one out. It is what it is. It's a tough job. I know Laz since our days in Miami, you know? He used to cover our games when I played at the University of Miami. Every Friday he was the man in those games, so it's a hard job. I understand that. It's a hard job."