Astros Lose Again; Face Elimination
Fan Interference Difference In 8-6 Loss

You make the call
(c) Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle
The 2018 Astros have run out of tomorrows. Boston's 8-6 verdict over the Astros Wednesday gives them a commanding 3-1 lead in the ALCS and they'll just need to win one of the last three games to knock out the defending champions and move on to the World Series.

What Houston fans will remember, though, is how an aggressive fan took a two-run homer away from Jose Altuve which became the difference in the scoring. It happened in the first with George Sringer aboard and Boston already ahead, 2-0. Altuve smashed a drive off Rick Porcello that appeared to arrive near the front row of fans who reached out to catch it just as Boston right fielder Mookie Betts made a desperate leap for the ball.

It appeared one fan's outstretched hand prevented Betts from being able to catch the ball while it was still in the air space of the playing field thus, fan interference. The ball fell to the warning track but Altuve was called out by umpire Joe West. As much as my heart wishes it was the wrong call, West and the Replay Fairies were correct. Instead of a two-run first, the Astros had no runs in the first.

As an addendum, the Astros seemed to be plagued at least once a year by idiot moron fans who don't understand about leaving the ball alone until it leaves the field of play. If they aren't too busy with their cell phones to pay attention, they are reaching over the railings to scoop up balls that are still in play or fighting Astro fielders for pop ups. I recommend, unless the fans in the first few rows are IQ tested before seating, the Astros should erect barriers to prevent fan interference in right field and in foul grounds.

But that just redirects the venom from where it belongs - a bullpen which has now seen everyone dented except Tony Sipp. Charlie Morton, who I am hoping does not retire after the season, was yanked after allowing three runs in 2-1/3rd innings. Josh James gave up three more including the now-patented Jackie Bradley Jr. ALCS homer (tm) as Boston batters continued to pound away like lumberjacks in an old growth forest.

The Houston hitters tried to answer. George Springer and Tony Kemp both homered and Carlos Correa returned from the dead to smack three hits and drive in a pair but it simply wan't enough to match the BoSox machine that scored in six of their nine times at bat. The Astros actually outhit the visitors, 13-11, but were just 3-of-12 with runners in scoring position during the 4-1/2-hour bloodbath.

To return to the World Series, the possibly demoralized Champs will have to sweep the last three games with the final two back in chilly Fenway. Justin Verlander will get the likely final start of the year at Minute Maid for Game 5 and Gerrit Cole may be able to step up for Game 6 but what other horse could they ride for Game 7 that hasn't already spit the bit in this series? Lance McCullers? Collin McHugh? Maybe give Dallas Keuchel another try without letting him pitch the first inning?

Game 5 is next and it will take place Thursday in a 7:09 pm Central start. David Price is the likely starter for Boston since Chris Sale has been scratched but this time of year offers many surprises. Perhaps the Astros could leave town on a high note rather than the usual soul-crushing losses the Astros have been famous for in their playoff history.

If you'd like some good news, Major League Baseball has cleared the Astros of spying charges made by Cleveland and Boston regarding a team representative near the opponents dugout using a camera. It seems the official retort was that the representative was there to catch the other teams of rule-breaking, not steal signs or other information themselves. MLB did tell all the clubs to calm their paranoia and stop taping each other.

- Bob Hulsey