Umpiring had another big moment on the MLB playoffs stage last night.
The latest controversy left Boston Red Sox fans waking up Wednesday wondering if they should have been on the other side of a 9-2 loss in Game 4 of the ALCS based on Nathan Eovaldi’s 1-2 pitch to Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro.
With two on and two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Eovaldi dropped a patented hammer curveball but left it up and away. Castro let it go by and the ball caught the outside corner. Home plate umpire Laz Diaz did not punch out Castro, as the Fenway Park crowd and Eovaldi – already having taken two steps toward the dugout – expected.
UNLIKELY HERO: Jason Castro finally takes a star turn in ALCS Game 4
"I thought it was a strike, but again, I'm in the moment. I'm trying to make my pitches," Eovaldi said after the game. “I’m attacking the zone.
"I felt like I was in control of the at-bat. Felt like I made a good pitch on the outside corner. Didn’t go my way, but I got to answer back and make another good pitch."
Before the go-ahead base hit, this was the 1-2 pitch to Castro. pic.twitter.com/3PVLW8FFnt
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 20, 2021
Castro fouled off the next pitch, a fastball, from the right-hander and sent the 2-2 count delivery into center field, scoring Carlos Correa, who led off the frame with a double. The Astros tacked on seven runs total in the ninth to even the series at two games apiece.
"A lot of people thought it was a strike," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said.
Diaz’s strike zone drew ire from both fan bases on Tuesday. An umpire since 1999, Diaz missed 23 ball-strike calls – 12 by Boston pitchers and 11 from Houston hurlers, according to ESPN Stats & Info, which said Eovaldi’s pitch in question contained a 23% chance of being called a strike.
"I’m not going to say anything," Red Sox pitcher Nick Pivetta replied when asked about Diaz’s strike zone.
Home-plate umpire Laz Diaz has missed 21 ball-strike calls tonight, according to @ESPNStatsInfo. That is the most of any umpire this postseason. The green dot in the upper RH corner is the Eovaldi curveball that would've ended top of the ninth with the score 2-2.
It is now 9-2. pic.twitter.com/VzdyL4lth3
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 20, 2021
Of course, Boston could look at its 0-for-9 showing with runners in scoring position as the main culprit for the loss.
"If it's a strike, it changes the whole thing, right," Cora said, "but I think we had chances early on."
In the third inning, Cora had to be restrained from arguing with Diaz following a called third strike on J.D. Martinez.
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB playoffs: ALCS 'ball' call has Red Sox wondering 'what if?'