ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Dusty Baker already was screaming at the umpires when the Houston Astros manager grabbed his hat, held it briefly and then just threw it.
The latest dustup between the Astros and Texas Rangers had the 74-year-old saying he was madder than he had been in a long time, an emotion cooled somewhat by José Altuve’s go-ahead home run in the ninth inning of a 5-4 win Friday that put the defending champion Astros up 3-2 in the AL Championship Series.
Houston’s Bryan Abreu and Baker were ejected from Game 5 after the reliever hit the Rangers’ Adolis García with a pitch in the eighth, triggering benches to clear two innings following the slugger’s go-ahead home run.
García also was ejected by the umpires during a confrontation that caused a nearly 12-minute delay. Crew chief James Hoye said Abreu was tossed for throwing with intent and García for being the aggressor in a confrontation with catcher Martín Maldonado.
“How do you prove intent?” Baker asked. “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. So I’m just glad that we won the game and it turned out right for us.”
Houston trailed 4-2 before Altuve’s dramatic three-run homer in the ninth off José Leclerc.
Following Evan Carter’s leadoff walk in the eighth, García was hit on his upper left arm by a 98.9 mph first-pitch fastball and immediately turned and got into Maldonado’s face. García dropped his bat and waved his right index finger in Maldonado’s face while the slugger was held back by plate umpire Marvin Hudson. García managed to extend his left arm over the umpire and shove Maldonado’s right shoulder
Both benches and bullpens cleared, with players from both sides surrounding each other at home plate. García was restrained by Houston’s Yordan Alvarez, a fellow Cuban, and Rangers teammates.
“It was just the heat of the moment,” García said through a translator when asked why he turned toward Maldonado instead of Abreu. “I just reacted to being hit by the pitch. I just reacted towards him as soon as I felt the hit. It was just a thing that happened in that instant.”
The umpires conferenced and ejected Abreu and García. Baker walked in front of the Astros dugout, arms spread wide, and got into an animated conversation with three of the umpires. Baker threw his cap, then was ejected, too. He continued to argue from the dugout with Hudson for six minutes before heading to the clubhouse.
The Rangers led 4-2 after García’s three-run homer in the sixth. He took 16 steps up the line as he watched the ball and pounded his chest, and was more than halfway to first when he empathically spiked his bat and started jogging.
The 30.5-second home run trot was the fourth-longest of García’s big league career, according to MLB Statcast.
“He’s a power hitter,” Maldonado said. “He can do whatever he wants.”
On July 26 in Houston, Alvarez got hit by a pitch right after Alex Bregman homered in the first inning of that series finale, and Texas’ Marcus Semien took a retaliatory plunk in the third.
Semien hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the fourth, and exchanged words with Maldonado. An inning later, Semien scored on a grand slam by García, who was face to face with the catcher when the benches cleared, though no punches were thrown.
Asked if the July incident could have played a part in García’s reaction, Maldonado said, “Could be. If you still had that in mind this late in the year. That’s up to him. We turned the page.”
The Astros contended they were focused on erasing a two-run deficit in the ninth and wouldn’t have wanted to put extra runners on base.
Texas had two runners on with no outs, then runners at the corners with one out, but didn’t score after Josh Jung and Nathaniel Lowe struck out.
“I think given the situation I think it’s pretty clear that there’s no intent there,” Houston starter Justin Verlander said. “I don’t think anybody is mad about him pimping a homer. It was the biggest homer in his career, quite honestly. Obviously he thought something might happen, though, because it was a pretty quick reaction.”
If the Astros were mad at García’s celebration, the slugger said they shouldn’t have been.
“I think we’re in the postseason. It’s the moment,” said García, who has four homers this postseason. “You hit a ball like that, you’re going to celebrate. It’s where we’re at right now. If they’re trying to react to that, I don’t think that’s the correct way.”
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