Let's get one thing out of the way. The Texas Rangers should have won yesterday's game despite the Adolis Garcia hit by pitch, and the ensuing Jose Altuve three-run homerun. The Rangers squandered too many opportunities in both the eighth and ninth innings. With much talk about the intentionality of the bean ball to Garcia, I felt compelled to take a look into the Astros words and actions around the intense baseball play.
The first issue at hand, is the game situation. This is the one and only argument that the hitting of Garcia by Bryan Abreu was not intentional. It is true that the Astros were very much still in the game, and it wouldn't make sense to willingly put another runner on base. First base was already occupied and by hitting Garca, there would be runners on first and second with nobody out. Why would Abreu and the Astros do that? Well, there are plenty of answers for that question.
Garcia had hit one of the greatest home runs in Texas Rangers history off of future Hall of Famer, Justin Verlander in the sixth inning. He didn't just celebrate the three-run homer, Garcia pimped it, and in a big way. He slowly walked down the first base line and then spiked his bat into the ground. Not all players do that sort of thing, but it is not unusual for Garica to go all out on his bigtime home run celebrations and he didn't let this opportunity pass him by. Did the Astros take exception to his antics? They say they didn't, but I find that hard to believe. There has already been bad blood between the two teams with Garcia being one of the main characters in the past drama.
Looking at the words of the Astros and how they say they were attacking Garcia, versus what they were actually doing are two very different things. Up and in, up and in, that was the post-game narrative on how they worked Garcia. After going back and reviewing Garcia's previous at bats from yesterday, the Astros were not trying to go in, but actually away from him with fastballs. The homerun that he hit in the sixth inning was down and inside, but only because that pitch was intended to be outside and worked its way back across the plate.
Another argument that I have heard is that Abreu had just walked Evan Carter and was experiencing a stretch of wildness. After going back and looking at the Carter at bat, the walk was issued on five pitches. Two of the four called balls, were on the corners and probably should have been called strikes. The second pitch of the at bat was a slider that spun well high and over the middle of the plate, and the third pitch was a four-seam fastball that missed off the outside (Carter is lefthanded) by a couple inches. The point is none of his pitches were far from the strike zone until the one that was conveniently thrown right at Garcia. Abreu is a phenomenal pitcher and one that has great command of his fastball, as pointed out by Evan Grant, below.
In the top of the eighth, Aroldis Chapman had buzzed a fastball under the chin of Yordan Alvarez. This pitch alone wouldn't have called for the beaning of Garcia, but couple that with the theatrical pimping that was done on Adolis' home run, and there is plenty of probable cause. It's not like the Astros hadn't retaliated on the Rangers before. Just this year, they took exception to Alvarez being hit and later nailed Marcus Semien. Even though it is a fading part of the game, "the protect your guys or don't show up my guys", retaliation fastball is still alive a well. It's always funny when there is a hit by pitch that circumstances say is probably intentional, that the pitch selection is always a fastball. No one gets hit accidently in a situation that screams on purpose, with something off-speed.
Even though there is little doubt in my mind that it was intentional, I also feel like there should have been no ejections. Garcia reacted, yes, but peace was restored quickly, and no punches were thrown. The players handled it and were ready to move on. All the umpires needed to do was issue warnings and move forward with the game. Should Garcia have just dropped his bat and gone to first base? The short answer is yes, but if you got hit with a 99 mph fastball what would you do? Honestly, I thought that his reaction was mild compared to what it could have been.
At the end of the day, the beaning of Garcia didn't cost the Rangers the game. They should have won anyway. But to say that the pitch was an accident is not looking at all of the information. Does it really matter, not really. But one thing is for sure, the heated rivalry between the Rangers and Astros is alive and well. Get your popcorn ready for tomorrow night and enjoy the ride!