MLB determines Astros pitcher

Adolise Garcia #53 of the Texas Rangers returns to the dugout against Framber Valdez #59 of the Houston Astros during the fourth inning of Game 6 of the American League, Houston Astros fans hold up signs saying “Free Brian Abreu”. Championship Series between the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros on October 22, 2023 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.

Bob Levy/Getty Images

While the winner-take-all showdown between the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers in the American League Championship Series was the primary storyline, a significant subplot unfolded leading up to Game 7 on Monday.

A heated incident in Game 5 of the ALCS cast doubt on whether one of the Astros’ key bullpen arms would be available, as relief pitcher Brian Abreu was suspended for two games after Major League Baseball deemed the 26-year-old an intentional hit on the Rangers. A hit-by-pitch by outfielder Adolis Garcia led to several ejections and a bench-clearing scene. MLB noted that it “took into account the dangerous nature of the pitch and its potential impact on player safety” when making its decision.

Fortunately for the Astros, they will not be affected by Abreu’s suspension for the remainder of the 2023 MLB playoffs. After appealing Sunday and pitching in Game 6 that night, MLB upheld its original decision to suspend Abreu for two games while delaying the punishment until the start of the 2024 season. The news was announced three hours before first pitch for Game 7 of the ALCS.

“That’s what I expected when I didn’t use him in two innings in a down game yesterday,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said Monday after learning of MLB’s ruling. “He told me he was willing to throw as many as possible if he had to be suspended. It was a blessing to have him today.”

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Given the uncertainty surrounding his status over the past two days and the production he’s provided this year, the Astros’ availability of Abreu is welcome news. He has a 2.45 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings this season, which is actually a step back from his regular-season stats. In 72 innings, Abreu struck out 100 batters while posting a 1.75 ERA.

“That could be a big blow,” Baker said of the possibility of Abreu being without Abreu for Sunday’s final game of the ALCS. “Some of it will be deferred and we’ll get him,” Baker added [in Game 7]as well.”

The Astros’ captain got his wish.

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Game 7 of the ALCS is scheduled for Monday at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Christian Javier is slated to get the start for the Astros, while Rangers ace Max Scherzer will make his tentative debut in the 2023 postseason. First pitch is scheduled for 7:03pm CT.

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