A playoff game between division rivals has the tendency to be a tinderbox in waiting. The Rangers and Astros in the ALCS had been dormant, but a match was finally struck in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Rangers star outfielder Adolis Garcia was hit by a pitch by Astros reliever Bryan Abreu on the first pitch of his at-bat with a runner on first and no one out. Garcia took exception to the pitch and immediately turned to catcher Martin Maldonado and began to bark at the backstop, apparently believing his hit-by-pitch to be intentional. The Rangers were leading 4-2 at the time.
The two sides got into a scrum, with Garcia twice trying to get back in the face of Maldonado before he was ultimately separated by Yordan Alvarez.
Following a discussion among umpires, Abreu and Garcia were ejected. Astros manager Dusty Baker was furious that Abreu was thrown out, and wound up being ejected himself.
MORE: Complete Astros vs. Rangers schedule
Why were the three kicked out of the game? Here’s what you need to know.
Why were Bryan Abreu, Adolis Garcia, Dusty Baker ejected?
Why Garcia was thrown out was clear. Following the hit-by-pitch, he immediately sparked off the fireworks between the Astros and Rangers, which will usually get a player tossed from a game, even with the stakes high.
Abreu, however, was determined after a discussion by the umpires. Fox Sports’ Tom Verducci reported on the broadcast the crew determined Abreu had thrown at Garcia intentionally, which is cause for an automatic ejection. Baker reportedly argued that the game situation did not call for a hit-by-pitch and was livid at the decision for the ejection of his team’s top reliever.
Garcia might have had reason to believe he was thrown out both for his celebration of an earlier game-changing three-run home run, and a past incident with the Astros earlier in the season.
When Garcia hit a first-pitch, go-ahead, three-run homer off Justin Verlander in the bottom of the sixth inning, he admired the home run and slammed his bat down. He then stomped on home plate once he finished his trip around the bases.
“We’re in the postseason, you know. It’s the moment. You hit a ball like that, you’re going to celebrate,” Garcia said after the game, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “If they’re trying to react to that, I don’t think that’s the correct way.”
Earlier in the season, in a matchup between the Rangers and Astros, several batters on both sides were hit by pitches. Garcia hit a home run that bounced off the Minute Maid Park train tracks, and Maldonado appeared to take exception to the way Garcia celebrated, first jawing with Marcus Semien, one of the runs that had scored on the homer, before getting into it with Garcia when he arrived, causing the benches to clear.
Flashback to the benches clearing incident that happened in Houston earlier this season. pic.twitter.com/VxXZYjBTkC
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 20, 2023
Abreu said after the game he was surprised Garcia had his outburst after the incident, and said it wasn’t his intent to hit Garcia. He said he spoke with Garcia and tried to defend himself, saying he didn’t mean to hit his counterpart, but Garcia responded saying that was “bulls—.”
“My plan was to get the ball up and in. That’s my plan on him, up and in and slider down and away,” Abreu said. “I just missed the pitch. He just overreact and I was just like, what’s going on here? And I just missed.”
Bryan Abreu said he told Garcia he didn’t hit him on purpose and Garcia told him “bull—-t.” He also said he was “p—-ed off” he wasn’t in dugout for Altuve homer. pic.twitter.com/1ZuWtM6scr
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) October 21, 2023
The Astros reliever added that he believed Garcia had every right to celebrate after hitting the home run, saying he “got a chance to celebrate and do whatever he wants.”
Abreu noted he did not receive any explanation for why he was thrown out of the game, and was left wondering why he didn’t receive even a warning before the ejection.
It’s understandable for Baker to be frustrated that intent was deemed as having been there to warrant an ejection. The Astros were trailing 4-2 when Garcia was plunked with a runner already on first and no one out. Any further baserunners would only make Houston’s efforts to climb back into the game more difficult.
He explained after the game that Abreu was simply trying to pitch up-and-in to Garcia, and that the pitch got away from him.
“I can understand, I was talking to [Rangers manager] Bruce Bochy out there. I can understand how he would take exception to that because nobody likes to get hit. But you’re certainly not going to add runs on in the ninth inning in the playoffs when we’re trying to win a game,” Baker said. “I mean how do you prove intent? That’s what I don’t understand. And I haven’t been that mad in a long time. I don’t usually get mad about nothing.
Bochy confirmed he understood why Garcia was frustrated.
“Who knows. Guy hits a three-run homer, next time up you get smoked there. So doesn’t really matter, I’d be upset too if I was Adolis,” Bochy said.
The incident took a while to be sorted out, with Baker initially refusing to leave the dugout after the ejection before saying more to the Astros.
“I was concerned about that delay,” Bochy said after the game. “It was taking too long to be honest. The whole thing, it was a bunch of crap.”
The Astros managed to escape the jam, and in the top of the ninth, Jose Altuve launched a three-run, go-ahead homer to put Houston on top 5-4. Abreu said he had to watch the celebration of the home run from the clubhouse.
“I just was really mad because I would love to be outside there and celebrate with my teammates, but I’ve been in here for no reason, that pissed me off,” Abreu said.