MILWAUKEE -- Tony La Russa has seen a thing or two during the lifetime he's spent perched on the top step of Major League dugouts, so he knew what he was talking about as he discussed the pitching matchups for the White Sox weekend series against the Brewers in Milwaukee.
"On paper, it looks like it's going to be a rough weekend for hitters, but it's baseball," La Russa said. "You never know."
But even he had to be just a little surprised with the way things went down Friday night as the White Sox fell, 7-1, in the series opener at American Family Field.
For starters, there was the uncharacteristic performance from Lucas Giolito, who allowed six hits, walked five and struck out three batters but only allowed a single run through six innings of work.
Then, there was the blow-up seventh inning that saw relievers Aaron Bummer and Ryan Burr walk two batters apiece, with Burr paying the price when Brewers center fielder Tyrone Taylor blew the game wide open with his first career grand slam.
That same inning also included La Russa's first ejection since returning to the dugout this season, with shortstop Tim Anderson earning his own early exit a half an inning later.
It was just that kind of a night for La Russa and the Sox, who dropped their second straight game and fourth of eight since the All-Star break.
“I can’t speak for the team, but I've been thrown out a bunch of times in my career,” La Russa said. “It’s all because of emotion. Sometimes you flare up because you care.”
On Friday, La Russa’s care was directed at the batting stance of Milwaukee third baseman Luis Urías, particularly the width of his stance, which La Russa alleged made some of Burr’s pitches appear to be higher than they actually were, and in turn, led to Urías keeping the inning alive with a four-pitch walk.
When Rowdy Tellez followed with another walk to make it a 3-0 game, La Russa had seen enough and made his feelings known to home-plate umpire John Libka.
“[Urías has] got a reputation for being an RBI guy, so I don't think he was not trying to drive in a run, but his stride took him under the pitches,” said La Russa, who was ejected for the first time since 2011, when he managed the Cardinals in a game against Milwaukee. “I don't think that was his intention, but it was absolutely the effect. He's a good hitter, but he ducked and got away with it and that's why I was upset.
“But the umpires didn't decide that game.”
Instead, pitching decided the outcome. Specifically, the Brewers pitchers dominance of Chicago’s offense, which was held to five hits with just one coming against Milwaukee starter Freddy Peralta, who struck out five and walked a pair over four innings in his first outing since the All-Star Game.
“We had trouble creating RBI chances,” La Russa said. “I give the pitching [staff] credit on the other side. They have some impressive numbers and today we saw why.”
The White Sox best scoring opportunity of the game came at the most unfortunate possible time.
They had runners at second and third after Andrew Vaughn’s one-out double and a walk by Leury García put Peralta in a bind in the second. After Adam Engel grounded out to third, Peralta intentionally walked Zack Collins, loading the bases for Giolito, who had just two prior plate appearances this season -- June 22 against the Pirates.
Instead of helping his own cause, Giolito looked at strike three and the White Sox wouldn’t put another runner in scoring position until the sixth.
“The pitching I faced was pretty nasty, so it is what it is,” Giolito said. “My at-bats were terrible.”
His pitching, however, wasn’t. Though it wasn’t the same swing and miss stuff that’s put him among the American League strikeout leaders, and he wasn’t nearly as efficient as his last time out when he tossed a complete game vs. Houston, he was able to minimize the damage.
“I thought I pitched pretty well considering my legs got a little tired because it was very humid out,” Giolito said. “That was probably part of the reasoning in only going six innings there, plus the National League, getting a real batter in there for that inning.
“I’m cool with my performance.”