Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel made a racially insensitive gesture toward former Texas Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish after connecting for a home run Friday in the second inning of Game 3 of the World Series.
Gurriel was captured by cameras in the dugout pulling at the corners of his eyes, mocking Darvish’s Japanese heritage. Gurriel smiled afterward.
Darvish learned of Gurriel’s actions on Twitter, and wasn’t pleased.
“Houston has Asian fans and Japanese fans, and there are Asians all over the place,” Darvish said. “Acting like that is disrespectful to people all over the world. To the Houston organization, it’s just not a nice thing.”
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Darvish later added that he is trying to ignore it and move on, but that he respects Gurriel for the time he played in Japan.
“Nobody’s perfect, and everybody’s different,” Darvish said. “We all make mistakes. We’re all human beings. That’s what I’m saying. We’ve just got to learn from it and we’ve got to go forward.”
Darvish later told Japanese reporters that Gurriel should be punished.
On Saturday, Major League Baseball did just that, suspending Gurriel for the first five games of next season. He remains eligible to play in the World Series.
Houston manager A.J. Hinch confirmed after the Astros’ 5-3 victory that he was aware of what Gurriel had done and said that Gurriel felt remorse about it. MLB said that it will speak Saturday with Gurriel about the incident and that he could face discipline.
Gurriel apologized for the incident, telling reporters that he believed it wouldn’t be viewed as racist.
“I didn’t try to offend anybody,” the native of Cuba said through an interpreter. “I was commenting to my family that I hadn’t had any good luck against Japanese pitchers here in the United States.
“I didn’t think anybody would think about what I meant with all those kinds of things like that. I offer my apologies to baseball and anyone offended.”
The Astros are quite familiar with Darvish, who was traded from the Texas Rangers to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the July 31 trade deadline. Gurriel, who debuted in the majors last season, entered with only seven career at-bats against Darvish, tied for the fewest of any of the nine Astros hitters.
His home run was the first blow in the Astros’ four-run second inning that Darvish didn’t finish. Darvish lasted only 1 2/3 innings in his Fall Classic debut, the shortest outing of his career, and didn’t strikeout a batter for the first time in his career.
A rivalry has formed between the Astros and Rangers, who overtook Houston in 2015 to win the American League West and then streaked to the division title in 2016. The Astros easily captured the West this season.
The series pitting MLB’s two Texas teams escalated shortly after the All-Star break in 2015, when then-Astros catcher Hank Conger took exception to Rougned Odor’s bat flip on a triple during his previous at-bat.
The benches cleared, and manager Jeff Banister was famously captured pointing his index finger at A.J. Hinch, his Astros counterpart.
Earlier this year during the World Baseball Classic, Astros third baseman Alex Bregman took to Twitter to criticize Odor for a bat flip on what Odor thought was a home run for Team Venezuela. The ball hit off the wall for a double.
This season, the benches cleared during a May 2 game at Houston after Lance McCullers threw behind Mike Napoli, who homered earlier in the game. That came only days after a Bregman tweet saying it was time to BTSOOTR (Beat the [bleep] out of the Rangers).