ARLINGTON, Texas – People will see what they want to see. You said on the FS1 broadcast that Brian Abreu was clearly not throwing to Adulis Garcia. Maybe that was too strong.
The referees ruled that Abreu’s throw was intentional. Many Rangers players believe the pitch was intentional. But manager Bruce Bochy clearly wouldn’t go that far, saying: “Who knows?”
Bochy was well aware that a batting batsman was the last thing the game situation justified. He was most upset by the nearly 12-minute delay as umpires settled the brawl in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, leading to the ejections of Abreu, Garcia and Astros manager Dusty Baker.
Bochy said the delay affected Rangers closer Jose Leclerc, who had just gotten the final out of the eighth inning, and would eventually give up Jose Altuve’s three-run hit in the ninth inning, the decisive hit in the Astros’ wild card. Winning 5-4.
Before we make a fuss, let’s imagine an alternate universe where Garcia simply ran to first base after Abreu hit him in the front shoulder with a 99 mph fastball.
That universe didn’t exist, and even Astros shortstop Martin Maldonado said, “I think every hitter in baseball would have handled it the same way.” Garcia got the go-ahead run with three runs in the sixth inning. Abreu hit him with the first pitch of his next at-bat. In the heat of the moment, Garcia was about to respond, especially considering the past events between these two teams.
“He could have hurt me,” Garcia said.
But here’s the thing: If Garcia had simply gone to first, the benches and bullpen wouldn’t have vacated. The Rangers could have had runners on first and second with neither out, a chance to increase their lead to 4-2. In the end they did not score in this situation, be careful. But the delay occurred because of the quarrel. Maldonado, the initial target of Garcia’s ire, said the incident galvanized his team.
He said: “Yes.” “Of course I did.”
Leclerc gave up Yainer Diaz’s first hit in 11 postseason at-bats leading off the ninth. Then he walked pinch hitter John Singleton, who was making his first appearance at the plate in 19 days. And then, Altuve did what Altuve does, hitting his 26th home run of the postseason.
After that, the Rangers were left feeling bad about their failure to close out a game they dominated, the Astros taking a three games to two lead in the Series, and, yes, Abreu’s injury to Garcia.
However, what was Abreu’s motive for intentionally attacking Garcia? Justin Verlander, who allowed Garcia’s homer, said the Astros weren’t bothered by the slugger stepping up the first base line, then raised his bat and said, “I don’t think anyone was mad about him pimping the homer, it was the biggest mistake.” Homer of his career, quite frankly. Rangers first baseman Nathaniel Lowe suggested that Abreu might have been getting revenge for Aroldis Chapman nearly hitting Yordan Alvarez in the top of the eighth, but that, too, seems exaggerated.
While players sometimes do stupid things, Abreu would have been downright stupid if he put the Astros in a position to fall further behind in a pivotal ALCS game. Revenge pitches occasionally occur in the regular season, although much less regularly than in the past. But in the postseason, when the Astros were three points away from losing a game that would have severely jeopardized their chances of defending their World Series title?
“Wearing this shirt, and having Adulis my teammate, it feels very deliberate. Obviously there is history between these two teams. I’m sure Alvarez didn’t like the high, narrow ball in front of him either. But in today’s game, we’re throwing fast balls. If you “You want to get emotional about something like that and criticize the guy who hit a three-run homer, that’s pretty bad. I don’t really support that.”
But what about game mode? Wasn’t this a weird time for Abreu to hit Garcia?
“It’s a nice excuse, isn’t it?” Louie asked. “That’s how I see it. When half the bench is gone in a hurry and the guys on the injured list want to talk and the undrafted starters want to get involved, there seems to be more emotions involved than gameplay.
Catcher Jonah Heim was more reserved than Lowe, saying, “It looked bad. That’s all I can really say. We don’t know if it was intentional or not. But it wasn’t the best look.” Another Rangers player, who was granted anonymity in exchange for his candor, accused Maldonado of orchestrating the whole thing.
“One of the best players in baseball suddenly lost control?” The player asked, referring to Abreu. “Clever Maldonado. They got exactly what they wanted, Adulis fumed. Crazy coincidence, huh?”
Maldonado is definitely smart. It can also be a nuisance. It’s clearly inside the Rangers’ heads.
If Maldonado plays the kind of three-dimensional chess suggested by the Rangers player, some team should immediately hire him as a player-manager. And if Lowe says it’s okay for Chapman to throw a high, hard fastball to Alvarez, then the same logic Abreu followed in throwing a high, hard fastball to Garcia should apply, right?
And that’s what Abreu insisted he was trying to do. “My plan was to try to get the ball up and down the pitch,” he said. “I missed the pitch.” But Maldonado offered a curiously different perspective. He said the field was supposed to be remote, and was set up accordingly. His different narrative will provide more fuel for conspiracy theorists.
After the pitch, Maldonado said Garcia asked him, “Why is this happening?” Maldonado replied, “Why what?” Abreu said Garcia overreacted. “I went and said, ‘Oh my God, that wasn’t on purpose.’ “Hello, bull—-,” he said. I said, okay, I’m done, you’re hot. “I just tried to back off.”
Abreu struck out just three batters during the regular season. Is it possible that he was simply trying to make Garcia uncomfortable, in the same way that Chapman may have been trying to make Alvarez uncomfortable? certainly. This is what made the Astros angry about firing Abreu. “I haven’t felt this crazy in a long time,” Baker said.
Baker said Garcia’s homer off Verlander was a foul, as the layup was low and in. “We pushed it up and in,” Baker said. “And any time you fire a projectile at 97 miles an hour, some of them are going to run away. I don’t care if you’re a bigwig, Hall of Famer, I don’t care who you are.
Baker was still fuming in his office an hour after the game, saying, “You can’t prove intent.” “Nobody’s trying to hit anybody in that situation,” said Ryan Pressley, the Astros’ closer who replaced Abreu and survived first- and second-run jams in both the eighth and ninth.
The referees disagreed, and took the unusually bold step of ejecting both Abreu and Garcia from the postseason game. Crew chief James Hoy told a pool reporter that all six umpires decided Abreu’s throw was intentional. Garcia was ejected for being the “aggressor” and trying to pass through plate umpire Marvin Hudson to get to Maldonado. Baker was fired for arguing about Abreu’s firing.
And the delay that frustrated Bushi? Hoy said the referees took their time because they didn’t want to make a mistake. More discipline is possible for those expelled, according to Michael Hale, the university’s senior vice chancellor for field operations. No comment will likely be made until next season. That’s what happened during the 2017 World Series when the league suspended then-Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel for five games after he made a racist gesture at then-Dodgers outfielder Yu Darvish.
The incident will be discussed for years. People will see what they want to see. But the bottom line is this: The Astros are about to go to their third straight World Series. It seems hard to believe that in a game they desperately needed to win, they were willing to fall further behind, for the sole purpose of vigilante justice.
(Top photo of Adulys Garcia getting hit in the eighth inning: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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