Abreu HBP causes dustup in White Sox rally

La Russa hot over pitch to team leader's helmet, benches clear in pivotal 8th

July 31st, 2021

CHICAGO -- There was no in-game or postgame debate concerning the intention of James Karinchak’s 96 mph fastball hitting José Abreu in the head during the eighth inning of a 6-4 White Sox victory over Cleveland on Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Karinchak immediately dropped into a crouch on the mound in despondent fashion after the baseball slammed into the left side of Abreu’s helmet, forcing home a run with the bases loaded. It was the idea of Karinchak throwing up and in on Abreu, the highly respected team leader for the American League Central’s top team, causing manager Tony La Russa to sprint from the dugout as Abreu was being checked out and have words with Cleveland catcher Roberto Pérez after pushing him aside.

Both benches and bullpens emptied. But there were no ejections and nothing more than an irate La Russa, who had to be momentarily held back by bench coach Miguel Cairo.

“The point was that the guy did not have command and it’s scary to call the ball inside,” said La Russa, who was still a bit agitated during his Zoom call. “There was no question it was not intentional. That guy lacked command and it was scary to throw the ball, and if you are going to throw the ball in, get it down. Just a very scary area. That’s what I said.”

"Definitely we're upset. You hit our man,” said White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, who delivered the go-ahead hit off Karinchak during a two-run eighth played sloppily by Cleveland. “You're brushing guys off the plate the whole game, and of course we're going to get mad at that situation. That's one of our big guys. Of course everybody's going to get mad.”

Lance Lynn, who struck out seven over a five-inning no-decision, pointed directly to the abuse Abreu has taken all season as another reason for the club’s anger.

“Guys aren’t afraid to just let [expletive] fly in there, and that’s not well received on our side, and we’re not happy about it,” Lynn said. “Tonight was one of many times that we’ve shown it and we’re going to make sure that he doesn’t just get hit the hell with it just because they don’t want to face him.

“That’s what we’re starting to see. That’s not who we are as a team to let him just sit there and take it.”

Abreu was checked out by head athletic trainer James Kruk and stayed in the game because as La Russa stressed, his toughness is other-worldly. Karinchak came over and talked to Abreu as he walked to first, and Abreu smiled and acknowledged there was no lingering issue.

Franmil Reyes, who homered to tie the game at 4 in the top of the eighth and drove in three runs, also checked on Abreu at first base before the game resumed.

“I told him, 'First of all, you know how much this team loves you and admires you. We’re not trying to hit you right there,'" Reyes said."Like nobody would do that.”

“He 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,” Pérez said of his encounter with La Russa. “We understood. We were just trying to pitch up and in on him. So, there was a lot going on and a lot of heat, but at the end of the day, it is what it is.”

Reyes wasn’t quite as calm when he spoke to the Cleveland media. He didn’t understand what the White Sox were trying to do after Abreu was hit and will like it even less if he or any of his teammates gets hit in retaliation this weekend.

“I don’t know what they were trying to do with what they showed there,” Reyes said. “It was inside of the group and was hitting a lot of bad things that I didn’t like personally. I have to say this, that’s why I came here.

“If any of our players get hit, this is personal. Like, we’re not gonna try to hit nobody on purpose. So me, personally, I’m not taking anything on purpose. It’s a big problem if they hit me. That’s all I got, I’m sorry.”

The White Sox (61-43) increased their lead in the AL Central to nine games with the win and saw a manager who had their backs as he sprinted into action.

“High-kneeing his ass off getting out there. I loved it,” Lynn said, while wearing a #FreeBrittney shirt. “You know that’s who Tony is, and that’s what we love about him.”