Costly D, HBP contribute to Cleveland loss

Zimmer-Johnson collision results in odd home run, benches empty in 8th

July 31st, 2021

CHICAGO -- Nothing was conventional about Cleveland’s 6-4 loss to the White Sox on Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field. A night that started with two runs for the Indians in the first inning quickly went sideways when the outfield duo of and did their best impression of Jose Canseco.

Each time the offense tried to creep ahead of the White Sox, the defense found a way to let Chicago right back in the game. And that sloppy play was punctuated with an errant pitch from that hit Jose Abreu on the left side of the helmet, led to the benches clearing and put the game out of reach.

The accidental homer

Zimmer was moving toward his glove side from center field and Johnson was charging over from the opposite direction in right. Replays appeared to show Zimmer calling for the ball, but Johnson did not get out of the way, causing the two to collide. The ball went into Zimmer’s glove and bounced out as he made contact with Johnson. Instead of being the first out of the inning, the ball ricocheted off the heel of his glove and over the wall.

“I found out that DJ didn’t hear Zimmer, because Zimmer had gotten there before him, but the crowd -- a pretty big crowd -- DJ just didn’t hear him,” Indians acting manager DeMarlo Hale said. “It’s one of them freak things.

“Both of their gloves in the gap, Zimmer being the right-handed thrower, DJ being a lefty. They’re going at the ball. I can’t fault their aggressiveness. They’re going to try to make a play. That’s what we talked about. But fundamentally, I hope we learned something, to maybe peek at the last second to see where the center fielder is.”

The blunders

The defense’s struggles didn’t stop there. After a relatively quiet night from the offense, Franmil Reyes’ homer provided a spark in the top of the eighth to knot the score at 4. But a miscue -- although it was ruled a hit -- from Amed Rosario on a ground ball up the middle to lead off the bottom of the frame set the tone for an ugly inning.

Moments later, backstop Roberto Pérez was charged with a passed ball before he threw the ball away in a pickoff attempt at second base. It marked the 11th time this season that Cleveland recorded at least two errors in a game.

The throwing mistake opened the door for the White Sox to load the bases, and when they did, the mayhem continued.


With the bases loaded, Karinchak plunked Abreu on the side of the head and immediately dropped to the ground, horrified by the incident.

“You know, in that situation, we’re trying to pitch the guy up and in,” Pérez said. "That’s where we pitch him pretty much every time. He’s a good hitter, you know? We’re not trying to hit anyone there.”

White Sox manager Tony La Russa came charging out of the dugout toward Abreu and pushed Pérez back away from his player. That’s when the benches cleared.

“As soon as he got hit, you could see it on the video,” Pérez said, “right away I went to check on him and I was even calling the staff to come get him and check on him. … [La Russa] came at me, pushed me and he shouldn’t have pushed in the first place because in that situation we’re not trying to hit anybody. But it is what it is.”

After tensions were eased, Abreu walked to first base and was met halfway by Karinchak, who gave him a quick hug to indicate that there was no ill intent. Reyes, too, stopped to chat with Abreu at first to make sure he understood the situation. But Reyes also wanted to be clear that the emotions from Friday night do not carry over to Saturday.

“I told [Abreu] first of all, you know how much this team loves you and admires you,” Reyes said. “We’re not trying to hit you right there. Like nobody would do that. Like a player like that, that’s never with a bad attitude like that.

“I have to say this, if any of our players get hit [on Saturday], this is personal. … Like, we’re not gonna try to hit nobody on purpose. So me, personally, I’m not taking anything [in retaliation] on purpose. It’s a big problem if they hit me.”