HOUSTON – Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who left Game 5 of the World Series early with a right knee injury, was pulled from the team’s roster with a right MCL sprain and was replaced by rookie catcher Korey Lee . Houston manager Dusty Baker said Gurriel ran on the field earlier Saturday to test his knee.
Dr. Gary Green, Major League Baseball’s medical director, confirmed the injury after communicating with the evaluating physician. MLB postseason rules state that a team can request permission from the Commissioner’s Office to replace a player who is unable to play due to injury.
“[Gurriel] try everything,” Baker said. “He came in yesterday and had treatment, he came in this morning and had treatment and didn’t respond well enough to play. He tried to run, and for a guy with knee injuries, the hardest thing to do is stop and then round the bases and get lateral movement. He tried everything. He wasn’t crying, but he had tears in his eyes. You could tell how badly he wanted to play. He 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 squad. Baker said he thought about hitting Vázquez at DH many times this year. He only did this once because he didn’t want to take the chance of one of the two catchers being injured.
“No. 1, he’s a contact guy,” Baker said of Vázquez. “I can do a lot of things with it. I did that once as an experiment to see. I had wanted to do it a couple of times, but I didn’t necessarily want to have to, in case something happened to Maldy … I really didn’t want to put my team in a position where I was going to lose [the] DH and put a pitcher in there and hit for the pitcher and go back to my National League days with just a four-man bench.”
Gurriel injured his knee in the seventh inning in Game 5 when he was awkwardly tagged out by Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins during a difficult stretch. The injury ended Gurriel’s impressive streak of 48 consecutive plate appearances without a strikeout this season, which ended in the fourth inning when he fouled out Connor Brogdon.
Gurriel, who caught the final out in Game 7 to clinch the 2017 World Series victory over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, was hitting .347 (17-for-49) with two homers and four RBIs in the postseason, including 6- for-19 with one RBI in the World Series. Trey Mancini replaced him at first base in Game 5 and made a stellar play to snag Kyle Schwarber’s line drive at first base.
“Yuli has been one of our best heroes in the postseason, so obviously, it stinks not to have him,” center fielder Chas McCormick said. “But we have boys who know their role, and we are confident in anyone who is going to be in that scene. We have a lot of good shots on this team.”
Astros Game 6 starter Framber Valdez has the highest ground ball rate in MLB and Gurriel is an excellent defender, having won the Gold Glove Award last year. So it stands to reason that Mancini will have plenty of chances at first base. Baker said Mancini is starting because he has the most experience in the job.
“It’s Mancini’s time to shine,” Baker said.