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MLB playoffs 2021: How the 268th pitch became the defining moment of ALCS Game 4

By numbers alone, the 268th pitch in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series wasn't particularly noteworthy. Cheap 4 George Springer MLB Jerseys, It left Nathan Eovaldi's hand at 80 Cheap Houston Astros MLB Jerseys, .4 mph and descended more than 4 feet on the way to Christian Vazquez's glov Buy MLB authentic jerseys, e. It spun at a slower rate than Eovaldi's average curveba Discount MLB Nike Jerseys, ll. It didn't move much side to side. Had he thrown it at any other point in the game, to any other batter, in any other situation, it would've been just another pitch.

In an alternate universe, or at least one that follows the rulebook strike zone, the pitch was a strike, a strike that would have ended the ninth inning and allowed the Boston Red Sox, owners of two walk-off wins this postseason, the opportunity to mint a third. In the real world, where the rulebook strike zone is a castle in the sky, the pitch was a ball, a ball that kept Jason Castro at the plate, a ball that preceded the 269th pitch of the night, which he fouled off, and the 270th, which he whacked for a go-ahead single that opened the floodgates of the Houston Astros' 9-2 victory at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.

It is a pitch that was lamented inside the park and in text chains connecting Red Sox fans who were hungry for a commanding lead but were left with a series tied and home-field advantage lost. A pitch that Eovaldi was so certain was a strike he skipped off the mound, maybe believing he had done his job and maybe trying to cajole the plate umpire, Laz Diaz, into punching out Castro, because he, like everyone, knew pitch No. 268 was on the edge of the strike zone, which isn't really a zone inasmuch as it is a concept subject to the execution of the man enforcing it. A pitch that, if Game 4 winds up as the detour that sent this series sideways for the Red Sox, will live in infamy in these parts as the strike that wasn't.

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