Win clouded by concern for Bassitt

Lamb, López send well wishes after A's RHP struck by line drive

August 18th, 2021

CHICAGO -- The story of Chicago’s 9-0 victory over the A’s Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field should be about the continued rejuvenation of , who struck out four over five innings of one-hit pitching.

It should have been about three-run home runs from Jake Lamb and José Abreu, as the American League Central leaders maintained their 11-game lead over the Indians and clinched at least a split in this four-game series. But in all honesty, the focus on baseball kind of disappeared when Oakland starter Chris Bassitt was hit in the head by a Brian Goodwin line drive with an exit velocity of 100.1 mph (per Statcast), with nobody out in the second inning.

A's manager Bob Melvin held a short statement in his postgame Zoom session with a brief update on Bassitt’s health status (noting that the right-hander was conscious throughout the ordeal and that "we don't think the eye is a problem at this point"), but didn't go into greater detail. Many of the White Sox, including manager Tony La Russa, shortstop Tim Anderson and Goodwin, tweeted their support for the well-respected pitcher.

“Over the years, I've seen it, against us and for us. I'm trying to think if there's anything scarier than that,” La Russa said. “A guy gets hit in the head at the plate, but he sees it a little bit. This was so defenseless. So he's the No. 1 concern. I just heard that he's conscious, getting examined. Certainly hope that he caught a break and he's OK."

“It's a lot more than baseball at that point. It's a friend, it's an old teammate,” Lamb said. “Any time you get hit in the head like that, it's a very scary situation. It's a scary situation, man. Simple as that, it's a lot bigger than baseball at that point."

Bassitt, 32, began his professional career as a 16th-round selection of the White Sox in the 2011 Draft. The right-hander made six appearances and five starts with the White Sox in 2014 before being traded to the A’s, with whom he has developed into one of the elite starting pitchers in the game, earning his first All-Star selection this season. Bassitt beat his former team in Game 2 of the Wild Card series in 2020, won in three by Oakland.

Goodwin’s line drive caused Bassitt to immediately fall to the ground, clutching his face. He was taken off by cart through an opening in the center-field fence, and the A’s announced later in the game that Bassitt was conscious, aware and being taken to a hospital. The White Sox also tweeted out their best wishes to both Bassitt and the A’s.

Burch Smith replaced Bassitt on the mound and allowed Andrew Vaughn’s two-run single to right, followed by Lamb’s home run. Lamb called that first plate appearance a very tough at-bat, as his mind was elsewhere and he was not really thinking about the game.

“You try to flush it all out. You breathe,” said Lamb, who was teammates with Bassitt during a stint in Oakland last year. “I went up there and I knew the guy had a really good fastball, so I was looking to get on time for a fastball and I saw the curveball pop up, and put a good swing on it.”

"When you see something like that, it’s hard to digest because as a pitcher, we know that that can happen,” said López, through interpreter Billy Russo. “It’s like, that could happen to me, and it’s scary. Every time you see something like that it’s tough to swallow. It’s sad that it happened. It was really hard on me. We have to keep playing.”

López is 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA and 11 strikeouts over 11 innings pitched in three starts this season. With Tuesday's strong effort, he picked up his first win as a starter since Sept. 12, 2020, vs. Detroit. 

“I’ve been working hard physically and mentally to improve and get better and get to this point,” López said. “It has made a huge difference.

“I feel in a very good position right now. The biggest difference is that I have confidence in my pitches. I can throw any pitch in any count. I’m not afraid of missing a location because I have that confidence.”

But while the White Sox improving to 70-50 was another solid moment for a team having an outstanding 2021 season, Tuesday’s contest was not really about baseball after the second inning.

“For those next 10 minutes, you're not really thinking about the game,” Lamb said. “You're thinking about your friend, your teammate, are they going to be all right. You're asking the trainers, 'are they OK?' and all that. I just hope Chris is all right. Will probably text a couple of the guys over there. I'm just praying he's all right."