Left fielder Andrew Benintendi made a diving catch with the bases loaded for the final out, and the Boston Red Sox held off the Houston Astros 8-6 on Wednesday night to take a 3-1 lead in the AL Championship Series.
Boosted by a questionable fan interference call and another home run from Jackie Bradley Jr. in a gripping back-and-forth game, the Red Sox moved within one victory of their first World Series trip since winning the 2013 title.
Craig Kimbrel earned a shaky six-out save, aided by a rocket throw from right fielder Mookie Betts and Benintendi's daring grab of Alex Bregman's sinking liner in left. Boston improved to 4-0 on the road in these playoffs and inched closer to eliminating the defending champions.
Game 5 is Thursday night in Houston, where ace Justin Verlander will pitch for the Astros with their season on the line. David Price, who was warming up in the bullpen late in Game 4, will start for Boston on three days' rest after Chris Sale was ruled out Wednesday while recovering from a stomach illness.
Bradley hit a go-ahead homer in the sixth inning, his latest huge swing for a Red Sox team that was knocked out of the postseason by Houston in the Division Series last year.
Boston has won three straight after a Game 1 loss, and this one came with some controversy after Houston star Jose Altuve was denied a two-run homer in the first inning because of fan interference.
After Boston scored twice in the first inning for the second night in a row, it appeared the Astros might have tied the game on Altuve's drive.
But crew chief Joe West, working the right-field line at Minute Maid Park, signaled fan interference after Betts was unable to make a jumping grab and the ball ricocheted back onto the field. Fans made contact with Betts' glove, though it wasn't clear if they had reached over the fence in the process.
The call stood after a replay review that lasted 3 minutes, 13 seconds. Altuve was ruled out and teammate George Springer was sent back to first base.
Altuve had both hands on his helmet in disbelief while standing on second base, where he stopped when the play ended. Astros manager AJ Hinch went out to discuss the situation with West, who had a brief consultation with the rest of the six-man umpire crew before the play was reviewed.
"He just said that there was fan interference on the field and my argument was more about the fact that the ball was leaving the yard, the trajectory was there,'' Hinch said during an in-game interview on TBS. "Jose paid the ultimate price for something out of his control. I'm not sure if Mookie makes that catch, a great athlete, but how it's an assumed out is unbelievable.''
A fan wearing an orange Astros jersey, who identified himself as Troy Caldwell, insisted he wasn't reaching out over the yellow line atop the 7-foot-high fence when the ball hit his hand.
"That ball was gone no matter what,'' said Caldwell, a lifelong Astros fan from Houston who now lives in Atlanta.
While Betts didn't say anything to the fans after the disputed play in the first, Caldwell said he immediately started getting texts that he had cost Altuve and the Astros a home run.
"As long as the Astros come back and win this we'll be all right,'' Caldwell said
But they didn't.
Boston trailed by one with two outs in the sixth when Christian Vazquez doubled to deep right-center. Center fielder George Springer nearly made a leaping catch, but the ball glanced off his glove.
Bradley, who hit a grand slam in Game 3 and a three-run double in Game 2, put the Red Sox on top 6-5 with his soaring shot to right field on the next pitch from rookie Josh James.
Boston got some insurance in the seventh when Lance McCullers walked in a run after taking over for Ryan Pressly with the bases loaded and two outs. J.D. Martinez padded the lead further with an RBI single in the eighth.
Houston cut the lead to two on an RBI groundout by Altuve in the eighth.
Red Sox starter Rick Porcello allowed seven hits and four runs in four innings. Joe Kelly was the winner after giving up a run in the fifth.