Alden GonzalezESPN staff writer4 minutes of reading
HOUSTON — Astros pitcher Brian Abreu has been suspended for two games following his controversial hit on Texas Rangers outfielder Adolis Garcia that sparked a bench-clearing incident and near-brawl in the late stages of Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night.
Major League Baseball noted in its news release that “all six major league umpires believe Abreu’s pitch was intentional” in ejecting him from the game, adding that the league “considered the dangerous nature of the pitch and its potential impact on player safety” when handing out the suspension.
The announcement — made by MLB senior vice president of field operations Michael Hill on Saturday — claimed Abreu was suspended for “intentionally throwing at” Garcia, a notion several members of the Astros denied after Houston’s departure — behind the Game 5 victory, including Abreu himself.
“My plan for him was just try to get the ball up and in,” Abreu said after the game. “That’s my plan with him — up and in and slide down and away. I just missed the pitch and he just overreacted.”
Abreu, the Astros’ primary setup man, would not be available for Game 6 of the ALCS and either Game 7 of that Series or Game 1 of the World Series; The Astros, after sweeping all three games in Arlington, Texas, hold a 3-2 advantage over the Rangers. If Abreu chooses to appeal, the discipline will be put on hold while the process proceeds.
The collective bargaining agreement states that hearings involving playoff suspensions must be heard within 48 hours of a player deciding to appeal. In that case, Abreu could wait until Game 6 to state he wants to appeal, then theoretically be available for Game 6 and potentially Game 7 while the process plays out. In that case, however, he may not be available for the start of the World Series if the Astros advance and his suspension is upheld.
Abreu was also fined an undisclosed amount, as were Garcia, Rangers pitcher Matt Bush, Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. and manager Dusty Baker. Garcia and Baker were also ejected from Friday’s game but were not penalized. McCullers and Bush will be banned from their respective benches until the end of the ALCS, MLB announced.
Abreu’s hit came in the bottom of the eighth, two innings after Garcia hit a dramatic three-run homer and celebrated emphatically, walking down the middle of the first base line and slamming his bat onto the turf at Globe Life Field before beginning his jog. The hit by pitch came with a runner on first, no outs and the Rangers still leading by two runs, on a first-pitch, 99 mph fastball that caught Garcia in the left hand. Garcia immediately turned to Astros catcher Martin Maldonado, then went looking for him again after players from both teams had taken the field.
A similar incident occurred at Minute Maid Park in Houston in late July, following Garcia’s grand slam. Rangers second baseman Marcus Semien, who had been hit by a pitch earlier in the game, pounced on Maldonado after he reached home plate. Garcia then joined. Arches and benches also emptied, but no blows were struck.
No hits were thrown Friday either, but Baker, who watched Jose Altuve’s game-winning home run from the arc-connected hallway, said there will “probably” be a carryover for what’s left of that series.
“Man, I don’t know,” Baker said before Saturday’s Houston practice. “I don’t have a crystal ball. I mean, it will be what it will be. You’ll have to wait and see, just like me. We don’t script it; it just happens.”