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Scattered thoughts after a bananas Game 4 victory

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I have no idea what I watched last night

League Championship Series - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Four Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

I’ve been doing these scattered thoughts columns after every postseason game, but never have my thoughts been more scattered than they are right now. Wednesday night’s game was absolutely bonkers, an all-time classic and I really have no idea what to think right now. It was a total rollercoaster all the way through with so many ups and downs that I’ve likely forgotten some big moments in that game because my memory only has room for so much madness. Either way, here’s what stuck in my brain after my couple hours of sleep Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

  • I guess we have to start with Andrew Benintendi, the ultimate hero of the game. Talking about just pure talent, that may not have even been the best play the outfield made during Craig Kimbrel’s outing. Mookie Betts threw an absolute strike to throw out the speedy Tony Kemp at second base, eliminating what would have been a huge no-out double in the eighth. Benintendi’s, though, will be more remembered and for good reason. I think everyone’s heart skipped at least one beat while that ball was in the air, and I really thought there was no chance he was going to catch it. I’ve seen some praising Benintendi for having the presence of mind to dive in that spot, but I think that’s just instinct. He knew he had it all the way and had to go for it. There wasn’t time for a cost/benefit analysis. Regardless, give him all the praise you want for whatever reasons you want. The man saved the game, and quite possibly the season.
  • Before Benintendi’s catch, the hero was the same as it was in the first two wins in this series, as Jackie Bradley Jr. continued to build his case to win ALCS MVP if the Red Sox do end up closing this thing out. The Red Sox center field caught a lot of flack for his offense this year, but he’s chosen the right time to get hot. Really, he’s been hot for months, but he’s taking things to another level right now. After a huge bases-clearing double in Game 2 and a dagger grand slam in Game 3, Bradley hit a mammoth, go-ahead home run in the sixth off Josh James. This is Bradley’s moment, and the Red Sox will try to ride it as long as they can. Also, before I move on, Christian Vazquez deserves credit for a big two-out double to even get the inning to Bradley at all, particularly against James who was making a lot of Red Sox hitters look silly in his multi-inning outing out of the Astros bullpen.
League Championship Series - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Four Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
  • Alright, we’ve waited long enough. We have to get to the controversy. After Game 3’s catch/non-catch from Tony Kemp, I was really looking forward for a straight-forward game with no awkward screenshots, no rule books and no grainy videos. My wish didn’t last through the first inning. We all know what happened by now. Jose Altuve hit a fly ball to right field that looked destined for the seats. Mookie Betts got a beat on it, jumped up and appeared ready to catch it. His glove collided with a fan’s arm (or multiple fans), and he didn’t make the catch. Joe West called interference. Replay review couldn’t find conclusive evidence to overturn the call. Altuve was out, and the Astros missed a chance at an early two-run homer. The baseball world exploded. I will admit that, when it first happened, I was 100 percent on board that the Red Sox caught a break and that it should have been called a home run. It looked to me like Mookie Betts’ glove was in the stands when it hit the fan, and at that point there’s no interference. The more I see it the more inconclusive it gets, but then I’m also incredibly biased. Gun to my head, I still lean towards it being a home run.
  • Okay, that being said, I don’t care. Cosmically, I feel good about Betts getting that call. I absolutely believe — and so does he — that he was going to make that catch and it was going to be amazing. I feel robbed of that moment, so the Red Sox catching that break in exchange is fine with me. If I was on the other side would I feel the same way? Obviously not, but that’s the way it goes. The most important thing is we get grainy video and screenshots at inconclusive angles from people who are 100 percent certain about the call one way or the other. Looking forward to that all day.
  • Two more points on that call: Even if you think it was the wrong call (again, I think it probably was even if I’m not 100 percent sure), you can’t blame the game on that. It’s convenient to look at the two-run margin of victory and point to that call, but as Astros manager A.J. Hinch pointed out after the game there was a lot of baseball after that. If you blame a loss on a play in the first inning, you deserve to lose. Also, it’s amazing in a heart-wrenching, very baseball kind of way that the one definitive angle that could have cleared this up was blocked by a security guard. It’s a moment that hasn’t been talked about enough. Someone get that security guard a beer.
League Championship Series - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Four Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images
  • On the more negative side, Rick Porcello was awful in this game. He had been so great in this postseason leading up to this start, but this was a dud. The righty had absolutely nothing and the Astros were crushing him all night. In fact, it was a little shocking he made it through four, and admittedly I was yelling a lot at my TV that he was in there that long. More on that later. For now, about Porcello, many are blaming either his relief appearance at Fenway or the fact that Vazquez was behind the plate. I won’t say with certainty that those didn’t have an effect, but it’s unfair to point only at those and not just put out there that Porcello simply wasn’t good. He did fine after his relief appearance against the Yankees in the same situation, and he pitched well to Vazquez in the ALDS. Porcello has had starts like this all year, including with Sandy León behind the plate, and to me the most likely explanation is he just had a bad night. It happens, and that’s not writing him off moving forward, but let’s call it what it is.
  • I also thought Alex Cora had a bad night, but I will be the first to admit that it is very easy to second-guess a manager from your couch. Still, I did not like some of his decisions with the pitching staff. Prior to the game, Cora said the team was all-in on winning this game, which made sense. After it was announced Chris Sale would miss Game 5, the Red Sox were always going to be underdogs on Thursday. So, they had to do what it took to win on Wednesday. Which is why it was surprising to see Porcello to get such a long leash. It sort of worked out — in his final inning he allowed a home run to Kemp, though it was not hit very well at all, relatively speaking — but it was still terrifying. Then, in the eighth, it was bizarre not to go back to Matt Barnes after he threw just five pitches to end the seventh. Presumably it was to get Kimbrel against the heart of Houston’s order, but given how both Barnes and Kimbrel have looked this month, I know who I’d prefer in that spot. Finally, having David Price warm for an inning-and-a-half but not bring him in at any point during that Kimbrel outing was bananas. It all ended up working out, but I still don’t feel good about any of those decisions.
  • To Cora’s credit, he did make the right call in starting Brock Holt and Rafael Devers. Neither was great in this game, but they did get on base three times in key moments and drove in three runs on the night. I’d venture to guess that’s better than what they would have gotten from Eduardo Núñez and Ian Kinsler.
League Championship Series - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Three Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
  • We obviously cannot let Kimbrel off the hook, either. For as weird and, frankly, crazy as the decisions were from Cora in my opinion, Kimbrel still needs to be better. At this point there’s not much more to say. We’ve been saying it throughout the postseason. This performance from the Red Sox closer is not sustainable, though, despite the Red Sox somehow winning every game in which he’s pitched this postseason. The good news for fans tonight is that he will presumably be unavailable.
  • Barnes and Ryan Brasier have been the antithesis of Kimbrel in these playoffs, and that continued on Wednesday. The two righties deserve a ton of credit for their performances, with the latter coming in to face the top of the lineup and getting three huge outs after coming in with a runner on base. He got two more after that but also left two in scoring position for Matt Barnes in a three-run game. Barnes got a massive strikeout against Tyler White to strand both runners. The Red Sox aren’t where they are without those two.
  • A forgotten moment in this game: Steve Pearce flipping into the Astros dugout. He didn’t make the catch, but that was a wild play and shows what kind of zone Pearce is in at the moment. He’s going all out at every moment.
  • One of the big stories coming out of this game is going to be time of games in the sport. I’m not one of those people who says pace of play isn’t an issue, but it wasn’t here. If you want to argue that the game started way too late, that’s totally fair and I’d agree. This was a classic game, though, and while it lasted a really long time every minute was tense. That was baseball at its best.