HOUSTON – Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who exited Game 5 of the World Series early with a right knee injury, has been removed from the team’s roster with a sprained right MCL and replaced by rookie catcher Korey Lee. Houston coach Dusty Baker said Gurriel ran onto the field earlier Saturday to test his knee.
Dr. Gary Green, Major League Baseball’s medical director, confirmed the injury after speaking with the evaluating doctor. MLB postseason rules state that a team may request permission from the Commissioner to replace a player who is unable to play due to injury.
“[Gurriel] tried everything,” Baker said. “He came yesterday and was treated, he came this morning and was treated and the reaction was not good enough to play. He was trying to run, and for a guy with a knee injury, the hardest thing is to stop, then round the bases and move to the side. He tried everything. He wasn’t crying, but there were tears in his eyes. You could tell how much he wanted to play. He just couldn’t do it and we had to replace him.
With a third catcher on their roster, the Astros started Christian Vázquez as the designated hitter in Game 6 with Martín Maldonado behind the plate. Lee, who hit .160 in 12 games for Houston this year, was on the club’s playoff taxi team. Baker said he thought about Vázquez at DH many times this year. He only did it once because he didn’t want to risk one of the two catchers getting hurt.
“No. 1, he’s a contact guy,” Baker said of Vázquez. “I can do a lot of things with it. I did it once as an experiment to see. I wanted to do it a few times, but I didn’t want to necessarily, if something happened to Maldy… I really didn’t want to set my team up to lose. [the] DH, I put a pitcher in there, hit behind the pitcher, and went back to the National League days of only standing on the four-man bench.
Gurriel injured his knee in the seventh inning of Game 5 when he was awkwardly tagged out by Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins in the loss. The injury came at the end of Gurriel’s impressive 48-game hitting streak this postseason, which ended in the fourth inning when he struck out Connor Brogdon.
Gurriel, who made it to the finals in Game 7 and won the 2017 NBA Finals. In the World Series win over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, hit .347 (17-for-49) with two homers and four RBIs, including 6 RBIs, in the postseason. 19 with one RBI in the World Series. Trey Mancini replaced him at first base in the 5th and made a perfect play to catch Kyle Schwarber’s line drive at first base.
“Yuli was one of our best hitters in the postseason, so obviously not having him stinks,” center fielder Chas McCormick said. “But we’ve got guys who know their role and we’re confident in everybody who’s going to be in that line-up.” We have a lot of good strikers in this team.”
Astros Game 6 starter Framber Valdez has the most ground balls in MLB, and Gurriel is an excellent defender who won the Gold Glove Award last year. So it’s clear that Mancini will get plenty of chances at first base. Baker said Mancini is the starter because he has the most experience at the position.
“It’s Mancini’s time to shine,” Baker said.