ARLINGTON -- There have been plenty of storylines to track in this “Silver Boot” American League Championship Series, though it was not until the late innings on Friday that the simmering hostilities between the Astros and Rangers finally boiled over on the diamond.
“It was just the heat of the moment,” García said. “I just reacted to being hit by the pitch. I just reacted towards [Maldonado] as soon as I felt the hit. It was just a thing that happened in that instant.”
García’s furious response followed his go-ahead three-run homer off Justin Verlander in the sixth inning, a blast the Texas right fielder admired with a slow walk down the first-base line, spiking his bat to the turf. García’s trot around the bases was clocked at 30.5 seconds; according to Statcast, he’s only had three longer trots in his career.
“We're in the postseason, you know? It's the moment,” García said. “You hit a ball like that, you're going to celebrate. It's where we're at right now.”
The Astros claimed they had no issue with García’s theatrics, with Maldonado stating: “He’s a power hitter. He can do whatever he wants.”
“I’m the kind of guy that I don’t care about celebrations,” added Abreu. “That was a big, big moment, a big spot for him. He hit a homer. He’s got a chance to celebrate and do whatever he wants. I just went in to compete against him.”
Abreu said his focus was to maintain the two-run deficit as he took the mound; he issued a leadoff five-pitch walk to Evan Carter, bringing up García. Maldonado said he was expecting a pitch low and away; instead, Abreu’s offering was a 98.9 mph heater up and in.
“My plan was to get the ball up and in, then slider down and away,” Abreu said. “I just missed the pitch.”
García and Maldonado -- who also jawed nose-to-nose at Minute Maid Park on July 26 following a García grand slam -- were swiftly separated by home-plate umpire Marvin Hudson.
“I just reacted to the ball that came towards me,” García said. “In that situation, he could have hurt me, he could have injured me. I just let [Maldonado] know that shouldn't happen there.”
Abreu said that he told García: “Hey, my bad. It wasn’t on purpose.” That explanation was rejected by García, with colorful language, at which point Abreu said he backed away.
“The guy hits a three-run homer; the next time up, he gets smoked there,” said Rangers manager Bruce Bochy. “I'd be upset, too, if I was Doli.”
After an on-field discussion, the six-man umpiring crew determined that Abreu had intentionally thrown at the batter. Additionally, they identified García as the “aggressor” in the situation, according to crew chief James Hoye.
“Because it's such a big game, we know it's the playoffs, we don't want to make a mistake in a situation like that,” Hoye said. “So we're going to make sure that everybody is on the same page, that we all felt the same way. And to a T, all of us felt like that pitch was intentional.”
That explanation infuriated Baker, who said that he was “seeing red” as the umpires sent him back to the visitors’ clubhouse. Baker was the first manager since the Padres’ Jayce Tingler in 2020 to be ejected from a postseason game.
“Nobody likes to get hit. But you're not going to add runs on in the ninth inning in the playoffs when we're trying to win a game,” Baker said. “How do you prove intent? That's what I don't understand. I haven't been that mad in a long time, and I don't usually get mad about nothing.”
Abreu said that he believed a warning should have been issued, a sentiment echoed by Houston closer Ryan Pressly.
“That’s a big moment. Nobody is trying to hit anybody in that situation,” Pressly said. “If you’re going to do that kind of stuff, you’re going to do it in the regular season. You’re not going to do it in the postseason.”
Bochy also had a complaint; he thought the umpires took too long to resume play, which he believed could have been a factor in closer José Leclerc surrendering Altuve’s go-ahead homer.
“It just took too long to get things back in order; that's what was frustrating me,” Bochy said.
In response to that, Hoye said: “Sometimes when we're on the field, it feels like it's a long time. But I'd rather take that 20 or 30 seconds to make sure we're getting it right.”
Michael Hill, Major League Baseball’s senior vice president of on-field operations, said the league will examine Friday’s incident to determine if discipline is necessary.
“We'll try to review everything in a timely fashion and make a decision,” Hill said.