La Russa: No intent in Ohtani plunking

Manager, reliever Wright tossed over incident two days after Angels hit 3 White Sox

September 16th, 2021

CHICAGO -- Mike Wright Jr. was the fifth of six relievers employed by the White Sox during a 9-3 loss to the Angels on Thursday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field. But the veteran right-hander ended up garnering the most attention.

Wright was ejected for the first time in his career after hitting Shohei Ohtani with a 90.4 mph fastball with two outs in the ninth. White Sox manager Tony La Russa also was tossed, for the third time this season and 91st overall, after defending Wright.

Ohtani, whom the White Sox pitched well all series despite two infield hits Thursday, fouled off the first pitch of the at-bat. Wright threw a pitch well inside that Ohtani avoided, and the American League MVP frontrunner even went to pick up the ball. But after a ball in the dirt, Wright's next pitch hit Ohtani square in the leg. The umpires immediately convened and decided to eject Wright.

This incident came two days after Yoán Moncada (first inning), Luis Robert (fifth) and José Abreu (eighth) were hit by pitches in a 9-3 White Sox victory. After the Angels (72-74) wrapped up their fifth straight season series victory over the White Sox (83-63), the respective managers had differing opinions on whether the Ohtani hit-by-pitch was intentional.

“Absolutely. We had hit two hitters for them, inadvertently,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “[Kyle] Tyler hit … Abreu, pitch in. And then the other day when [Oliver] Ortega slipped, he hit [Robert]. So it was retaliatory. We knew that."

“It was not intentional. The reasoning did not make sense,” said La Russa, who was ejected by second-base umpire Bill Welke.

“[Welke] felt that there was stuff lying on that first game. It was all us getting hit. And he noticed all that, but they didn’t do anything. … . But he ruled that that was intentional, and he made a mistake.”

La Russa didn’t believe Thursday’s decision was consistent with the umpiring judgment throughout the series.

“I'm not gonna belabor this,” La Russa said. “It wasn’t intentional, he read it wrong, and it wasn’t consistent with the way that number one, they treated the three hit batsmen, and secondly, where was our retaliation? First the game yesterday, and today he made a mistake. It’s upsetting. It looks bad for our pitcher, our team, me. It disappoints me.”

The White Sox turned to rookie third baseman to record the final out of the ninth. Abreu moved from designated hitter to third base, marking his first career game at anywhere other than first base or DH, although Abreu takes grounders at third and shortstop on a daily basis.

Gonzalez struck out Angels cleanup hitter Max Stassi on four pitches in his mound debut. He threw three pitches for strikes and topped out at 80.8 mph, per Statcast.

“Maybe in high school I pitched once, but never past high school,” Gonzalez said. “That was pretty cool, to get out there, especially to get a strikeout. That was a nice experience. I went two fastballs away, and I went like a little cut-slider there at the end.”

Chicago's offense did very little against Alex Cobb, who was starting for the first time since July 23, finishing with two hits in five innings while striking out five times against the right-hander. (3-3), who entered the contest with a 3.00 ERA over six previous starts and with a 2.05 ERA in 16 appearances for the White Sox, was touched up for seven runs (six earned) in four innings. The right-hander fanned seven over his 81 pitches.

And as for the defense? It was an afternoon featuring three errors overall and two by usually sure-handed shortstop Tim Anderson. A five-run fourth for the Angels sort of summed up that portion of the game.

Stassi opened with a single to left that hit midway up the left-field wall, and he moved to second on Jared Walsh’s infield hit. Luis Rengifo, who had homered in the second, reached on Anderson’s first error, but Anderson knocked down the hard-hit grounder and had a play at second if second baseman César Hernández had been there to cover the base.

Jack Mayfield doubled home all three and moved to third on Eloy Jiménez’s throwing error. Jose Rojas completed the uprising with a two-run homer. The White Sox magic number to clinch the AL Central remained at seven as they embarked on their final 11-game road trip beginning Friday in Texas.

“It just wasn’t our best game of the year, that’s for sure,” La Russa said. “But hitting, by the time you think you’re hot, the next day you’re not. Just stay after it; turn a page, get ready for tomorrow.”