TLR on Abreu HBP: 'That was intentional'

White Sox manager cites multiple up-and-in pitches; Baker claims 'zero' intent

October 13th, 2021

CHICAGO -- White Sox manager Tony La Russa remained on the field in the eighth inning on Tuesday, arguing long enough for the fans inside Guaranteed Rate Field to start chanting his name. It was a scene of frustration manifested.

La Russa was miffed over being hit by a Kendall Graveman pitch in the waning moments of Houston's overwhelming 10-1 victory to claim the American League Division Series. The manager continued to air some of his grievances in the wake of Chicago's season-ending loss in Game 4.

"I only care about sportsmanship so far. And I have a limit," La Russa told reporters. "They beat us. They played better. We're disappointed. That was intentional. I don't understand why. I don't understand how they got away with it."

As the White Sox head into their offseason, this controversy rose to the level of a whimper. La Russa was adamant that Houston intentionally aimed at Abreu, while Astros manager Dusty Baker was also adamant that was not the case at all.

"I beg to differ with Tony," Baker said. "There was no reason to do that -- zero."

It was a last-minute exchange of verbal jabs between two of baseball's legendary skippers. And the mini drama came after reliever Ryan Tepera's recent comments that Houston had some "sketchy stuff" going on during Games 1 and 2 in Houston.

Such comments about the Astros have a tendency to grab attention, given Houston's recent history. An MLB investigation found the Astros stole signs electronically during the 2017 and '18 seasons, leading to a $5 million fine, a loss of Draft picks and the suspensions of former general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch.

With that as the ever-present backdrop, in-game events involving the Astros can wind up under a magnifying glass. La Russa said he did not need to look too deeply to determine, in his opinion, that Houston was targeting Abreu in the eighth.

La Russa noted that Graveman fired multiple up-and-in pitches to Abreu before his full-count fastball struck the Sox first baseman in the left arm. La Russa also said he noticed catcher Martín Maldonado looking into the Astros’ dugout.

"It will be a good test of the character and credibility," La Russa said. "They did hit him intentionally. I'll be really curious. They should have the guts to admit that they did it, why they did it."

La Russa made his case for a few minutes on the field with home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza, who opted not to eject the skipper. Warnings were issued to both clubs, which further angered La Russa, but the theatrics simmered from there.

Baker pointed out that Abreu was hit by 22 pitches during the regular season.

"In modern baseball, guys don't try to get out of the way of balls," Baker said. "In my day, you know, you hit the dirt or you turned away from the ball. But today, guys are just standing there and taking it."

Earlier in the game, Jose Altuve -- the recipient of jeers and chants from the Chicago crowd -- was hit by a Carlos Rodón pitch in the third. The fans on hand erupted in cheers. Houston’s second baseman quieted things with a three-run homer off Liam Hendriks in the ninth.

In the end, the Astros did their talking in the win column, taking the best-of-five set to advance to their fifth straight AL Championship Series. And Baker insisted there were no hard feelings over anything that happened on the field, or was said postgame.

"I don't think there's bad blood between these two teams," Baker said. "There was no reason for us to hit Abreu. He hasn't done anything to us, and the score wasn't indicative of even attempting to [do that]."