2018 ALCS

Benintendi ALCS Game 4 catch is AP's play of the year

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USA TODAY Sports photo

Benintendi ALCS Game 4 catch is AP's play of the year

There may have been better catches, but it'd be hard to find a better and bigger one - given the stakes - than Andrew Benintendi's diving grab in Houston to end the Red Sox's 8-6 victory over the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. 

The catch of Alex Bregman's bases-loaded liner to left field gave the Sox a 3-1 series lead and is the Associated Press Play of the Year for 2018. 

Here's the AP description:

1. A dive into Red Sox lore

Andrew Benintendi may never make a better catch. The left fielder for the Boston Red Sox made a diving grab to end Game 4 of the AL Championship Series, a huge play on his team's run to the World Series title. Boston led 8-6 in Game 4, up 2-1 in the series, but the bases were loaded in Houston and the crowd at Minute Maid Park was roaring. Alex Bregman hit a liner that was sinking fast, and if it had gotten past Benintendi the Astros would have likely scored three runs to win. But Benintendi dove perfectly, snared the ball just above the grass and the rest is now Red Sox lore — as well as the play of the year.

The Sox, of course, would go on to win Game 5 to wrap up the series and head to the World Series, where they also won in five games over the L.A. Dodgers. That also included a spectacular Benintendi catch in Game 2.  

In fact, AP's Top 3 plays of 2018 had New England connections. But the other two were not so good for the locals.

No. 2 was actually two plays, both shots by Notre Dame's Arike Ogunbowale: The buzzer-beater that knocked UConn out of the NCAA women's basketball tournament in the national semifinals and her go-ahead hoop two nights later in the final against Mississippi State. 

No. 3 was also two plays, both in which the Patriots were victimized: The Eagles' "Philly Special" touchdown catch by quarterback Nick Foles in Super Bowl 52, and the Dolphins' "Miami Miracle" last-second lateral TD scored by Kenyan Drake that beat the Pats on Dec. 9. 

Ouch. Those still smart.

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Sources: Astros employee caught by Red Sox, Indians was involved in Yankee Stadium incident

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Sources: Astros employee caught by Red Sox, Indians was involved in Yankee Stadium incident

BOSTON — Kyle McLaughlin, the Astros employee who was caught “monitoring the field” during the ALDS and ALCS, was also in tow at Yankee Stadium in May when an Astros employee confronted a Yankees employee, multiple sources with direct knowledge of the matter told NBC Sports Boston.

As first reported by the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman in late May confronted a Yankees employee whom the Astros believed to have impermissibly set up a camera in center field at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees had league permission to set up the camera.

Taubman was not alone on the mission in center field, with McLaughlin there as well.

“It was a whole tag team,” one source said. “He was on his belly taking pictures [in center field]. And then Brandon went into a secured area, was very aggressive. They just didn't give a [crap]."

When McLaughlin was found at Fenway Park in the ALCS, Taubman went to retrieve McLaughlin. The Yankees did not catch McLaughlin taking dugout pictures, as the Red Sox and Indians did. But the Red Sox were wise to the fact McLaughlin had been part of an incident involving security not only in Cleveland, but in New York as well.

Major League Baseball did not respond to a request for comment. Asked about the New York incident, an Astros spokesman declined comment during the ALCS. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow also declined an interview request a day after he said the Astros were merely trying to make sure other teams were following the rules.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch said in the ALCS that he was unaware of McLaughlin's missions, and indicated it was a front-office matter.

"I was surprised," Hinch said. "So I didn't know. I don't know him. I don't know him. I've seen him before. I've seen him around. It's not about this kid. I was unaware.

"So I think there's a lot of — for me, there's a lot of ultra focus this time of year on what you're doing. But to me, I'm sure Jeff addressed whatever the process was or however it came about, competitively on the field we had no idea."

Major League Baseball issued a statement citing two postseason incidents with the Astros. 

“Before the Postseason began, a number of Clubs called the Commissioner’s Office about sign stealing and the inappropriate use of video equipment.  The concerns expressed related to a number of Clubs, not any one specific Club.  In response to these calls, the Commissioner’s Office reinforced the existing rules with all playoff Clubs and undertook proactive measures, including instituting a new prohibition on the use of certain in-stadium cameras, increasing the presence of operations and security personnel from Major League Baseball at all Postseason games and instituting a program of monitoring Club video rooms.

“With respect to both incidents regarding a Houston Astros employee, security identified an issue, addressed it and turned the matter over to the Department of Investigations. A thorough investigation concluded that an Astros employee was monitoring the field to ensure that the opposing Club was not violating any rules.  All Clubs remaining in the playoffs have been notified to refrain from these types of efforts and to direct complaints about any in-stadium rules violations to MLB staff for investigation and resolution.  We consider the matter closed.”

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