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Fan interference call latest episode in memorable Red Sox-Astros series

The Astros’ George Springer reacted after a fan interference call negated an apparent home run by Jose Altuve.JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF

HOUSTON — Jackie Bradley Jr. knocked in two more runs. Steve Pearce went ass-over-tea kettle into the Astros dugout in pursuit of a popup. Sweaty-palmed Craig Kimbrel threw 35 pitches to get his first six-out save of the season while David Price — now Thursday’s Game 5 starter — warmed up in the eighth and ninth.

Oh, and Cowboy Joe West made a first-inning fan interference call that might have ultimately won the game for Boston.

This one had all that and more.

The Red Sox outlasted the Astros, 8-6, in Game 4 of the ALCS Wednesday night/Thursday morning and are one victory away from bringing the 114th World Series to Fenway Park next Tuesday night.


This was a 4-hour-and-33-minute thrill ride that wasn’t over until Andrew Benintendi dove and snared Alex Bregman’s sinking liner with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth. There were two ties and two lead changes and 24 men left on base.

And in both Boston and Houston, it will forever be remembered as the night that Joe West took two Houston runs off the board when he ruled fan interference on a Jose Altuve fly ball that was headed into the stands in the first inning.

Does this make up for Larry Barnett messing up the Ed Armbrister interference play in the 1975 World Series? Will it atone for Ben Dreith incorrectly calling roughing the passer on Sugar Bear Hamilton in the 1976 NFL playoffs?

Who cares? What matters at this moment is that the Sox can clinch the American League pennant Thursday.

The increasingly intriguing series — already made memorable by Houston’s Spygate guilt — had its Jeffrey Maier/Steve Bartman moment shortly after the national anthem. Trailing, 2-0, the Astros appeared to tie the game on a two-run shot by Altuve.


No. A fan in the first row of the right-field bleachers interfered with Mookie Betts as the Sox right fielder attempted to glove the ball at the top of his leap.

The ball was clearly over the fence and headed for the seats and it looked like Betts was going to catch it, but his glove closed prematurely because of a fan reaching to catch the souvenir.

The ball clanged off the side of Betts’s glove and into the crowd.

The inimitable Cowboy Joe immediately signaled fan interference, and called Altuve out, which prompted a lot of booing and a review at the request of the ’Stros.

West’s call was upheld in New York.

Good thing we weren’t in the Bronx. There might have been a riot in the stands.

Intrepid Globe correspondent Owen Pence hunted down the fan shortly after the controversy. The fan’s name is Troy Caldwell, a Houston native who currently lives in Atlanta and is unlikely to be moving back to Houston any time soon.

“I don’t even understand what happened,’’ Caldwell told the Globe. “I was over the line and the ball hit — I had my hands out, you can see it. I got like 800 pictures that already came to me — but I’m over the line and I put my hand out and the ball hit my hand.

“I never touched his glove. I don’t understand why it wasn’t a home run . . . My hand wasn’t over the yellow.’’

Scoring first has been magic for the Red Sox in this postseason. They’ve won all six games in which they scored the first run. They’ve also won four consecutive road playoff games, beating the Yankees and Astros by an aggregate 36-12.


Houston did not give up seven or more runs in three consecutive games all season. The Sox have scored seven, eight, and eight runs, respectively, in the last three games of this series.

Winning Game 4 seemed paramount because of the uncertain status of ace Chris Sale. The emaciated lefty with the barking shoulder spent Sunday night at Mass. General with a reported stomach ailment. He rejoined his teammates in Houston and was officially scratched from a Game 5 start Wednesday. The Sox are hoping he can start Game 6 in Boston Saturday, but their Game 5 plan was still up in the air in the midnight hour Wednesday.

So now what can Boston do for Joe West and Troy Caldwell? Free food for life at the Union Oyster House? Their own Duck Boats?

Caldwell might have a rough time of it in his native land from this point forward. His infraction was hardly on the scale of Mr. Bartman in Chicago, but his action definitely turned Game 4 in favor of the Red Sox.

The Red Sox are 6-2 in this postseason against the 100-win Yankees and 103-win Astros. One more win vs. Houston will bring the World Series to Fenway.

And never forget that Joe West was the difference in Game 4.


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy.