HOUSTON – Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who left Game 5 of the World Series earlier with a right knee injury, has been removed from the team’s roster with a sprained right MCL and has been replaced by the freshman catcher Korey Lee. Houston manager Dusty Baker said Gurriel ran on the field early Saturday to test his knee.
Dr. Gary Green, the medical director of Major League Baseball, confirmed the injury after communicating with the evaluating doctor. MLB postseason rules provide that a team may request permission from the Commissioner’s Office to replace a player who is unable to play due to injury.
“[Gurriel] tried everything,” Baker said. “He came in yesterday and got treatment, he came in this morning and got treatment and didn’t respond well enough to play. He was trying to run, and for a guy who had knee injuries, the hardest thing to do is to stop and then round the bases and have lateral movement. He tried everything. He wasn’t crying, but he had tears in his eyes. He could tell how much 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 at 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 cab team. Baker said he plans to hit Vázquez at DH several times this year. He only did it once because he didn’t want to take the chance that one of the two catchers would get hurt.
“No. 1, it’s a contact type,” Baker said of Vázquez. “I can do many things with him. I did that time as an experiment to see. I wanted to do it a couple of times, but I didn’t want to, in case something happened to Maldy … I really didn’t want to put the my team in a position where they were going to lose. [the] DH and put a pitcher in there and hit for the pitcher and it goes 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 clumsily tagged out by Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins during a rundown. The injury ended Gurriel’s impressive streak of 48 consecutive plate appearances without a strikeout this postseason, which ended in the fourth inning when he struck out Connor Brogdon.
Gurriel, who took the final out in Game 7 to clinch the 2017 World Series victory over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, hit .347 (17-for-49) with two homers and four RBIs in the postseason, including 6-for-19 with an 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 hitters in the postseason, so obviously, it stinks not having him,” center fielder Chas McCormick said. “But we have guys who know their role, and we’re confident in somebody who’s going to be in that lineup. We’ve got a lot of good hitters 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 a Gold Glove Award last year. So, it stands to reason that Mancini has a lot of chances at first base. Baker said Mancini is ahead because he has the most experience at the position.
“It’s Mancini’s time to shine,” Baker said.