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#pounditFriday, December 3, 2021

Umpire Laz Diaz robbed Nathan Eovaldi during pivotal Jason Castro at-bat

Still shot shows a Nathan Eovaldi pitch to Jason Castro

Umpire Laz Diaz squeezed Nathan Eovaldi during a key at-bat in the top of the ninth inning of ALCS Game 4 on Tuesday night in Boston.

Eovaldi, usually a starter, was called upon to pitch in relief during the top of the ninth with the Red Sox and Houston Astros tied at two. Eovaldi allowed a double and intentional walk, but struck out two.

Jason Castro then came up with the scored tied 2-2 and runners on first and second with two outs. He ended up hitting an RBI single on a 2-2 pitch to break the tie. It was all gravy from there, as Houston broke out with seven runs to take a 9-2 lead.

But had Diaz been calling things properly, the game would never have gotten to that point.

The pitch tracking showed that Eovaldi threw six pitches to Castro and all six should have been called strikes. His 0-1 pitch to Castro was called a ball because it was high, but it caught the top of the zone and should have been a strike. Then, Eovaldi caught the corner on a 1-2 breaking ball, but Diaz called it a ball as well to make it 2-2.

Eovaldi started strutting off the mound thinking he was out of the inning. There is no doubt the ball was on the corner:

Eovaldi nearly struck out Castro twice during that at-bat.

Instead, Castro got the benefit of not one, but two close calls. Given six strikes to play with, Castro finally got a hit.

The blown calls by Diaz changed the game. The game should have gone to the bottom of the ninth tied, but instead, Houston blew it open.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan said that Diaz missed more ball-strike calls (21) in the game than any other umpire this postseason.

That has to utterly sting for Red Sox fans. Instead of the game going to the bottom of the ninth tied, they lost 9-2 and the series is now tied at two.

Astros fans should be sending Diaz gifts. But one thing Boston fans should keep in mind is that the same thing happened in the bottom of the first. Zack Greinke threw a strike to Rafael Devers that was called ball four by Diaz. The next batter was Xander Bogaerts, who hit a 2-run home run. Maybe Diaz’s terrible calls evened out.

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