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Umpire Laz Diaz's Missed Calls Played Far Too Prominent A Role In Red Sox' Loss To Astros

BOSTON (CBS) -- Laz Diaz made a strike call so bad on Tuesday night that he let Alex Cora come out and scream about it without ejecting the Boston manager.

If only Cora and Boston knew what was to come later on in the evening.

In the top of the ninth inning, with Game 4 of the ALCS between the Red Sox and Astros tied at 2-2, Nathan Eovaldi was looking to pitch out of his own jam and end his relief appearance with a curveball to pinch hitter Jason Castro. Eovaldi threw the perfect pitch, and he began his walk to the dugout.

Only the strike three call from Diaz never came. The umpire called it ball two.

Of course, as is the case with most missed calls, the aggrieved party still had an opportunity to make up for it. In this instance, Eovaldi did not.

Two pitches later, Castro ripped Eovaldi's 88 mph splitter into center field, driving in what proved to be the winning run of the ballgame.

After that, things got messy, with Houston plating six more runs to take a 9-2 lead. To the 37,000-plus Red Sox fans in attendance and the millions watching at home, there was a feeling that none of it should have happened, and that the Red Sox should have been batting in the bottom of the ninth with a chance to walk it off with one run.

"We were one pitch away from ending that inning, it didn't happen. And they scored seven," Cora said.

Cora passed on an opportunity to opine on whether or not the pitch was a strike.

"I gotta take a look," Cora said. "Yeah, a lot of people thought it was a strike."

Cora also made sure to not use the umpiring as a public excuse for anything.

"He disagreed with us, but that's a tough job," Cora said.

Cora noted that the Red Sox had chances early on, and they did. The Red Sox left 11 runners on base and went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Their only runs came in the first inning, despite chasing Zack Greinke after 1.1 innings and then facing a taxed Houston bullpen.

Had the missed call in the ninth been an anomaly, though, then perhaps it would be a lesser issue. But for one, both sides had to have been on alert for some bad umpiring heading in to the game. Secondly, it had already shown up with the called strike three on J.D. Martinez in the third inning -- a pitch that was well off the plate and never traveled near the plate. The one stood out as a stark contrast to the surprisingly small strike zone for Castro's at-bat.

For what it's worth, Diaz's questionable strike zone applied to both teams. ESPN's Jeff Passan shared that entering the bottom of the ninth inning, Diaz had gotten 21 ball-strike calls wrong -- the most of any umpire during the 2021 postseason. Diaz added to that total with two more missed calls in the bottom of the ninth.

When that's the case, the umpire has clearly become too large of a story in a game that should always be decided by the players.

This is not to say that Diaz favored one team over another. It is simply to say that Diaz's strike zone was so bad and so unpredictable that it impacted the game in a way that nobody -- not one player, coach, manager, fan, broadcaster, writer, popcorn vendor, parking attendant, PA announcer, mascot, etc. -- ever wants to see.

Based on his overall number for the night, Diaz was due to blow a big call in a huge moment. He did exactly that with the Eovaldi pitch in the ninth.

That can't be changed, and it's up to the Red Sox to try to shake it off in Game 5. For now, it's certain to sting for a bit.

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