Ryan Tepera’s White Sox debut could’ve gone better. But that wasn’t the most emotional moment in the eighth inning of the Sox’ 6-4 Friday over the Indians.
With the bases loaded and the Sox having taken a 5-4 lead earlier in the inning on a Tim Anderson single, Cleveland reliever James Karinchak hit Jose Abreu in the head with a 96 mph 0-0 fastball. Benches cleared, and Sox manager Tony La Russa ran onto the field and was visibly upset, needing at one point to be held back.
La Russa said he knew Karinchak didn’t throw at Abreu, but wasn’t happy Cleveland wanted that pitch.
“But the ball was called in and that guy is really a good pitcher but today his command was not there,” La Russa said. “And it’s a scary situation so that was why I was upset because you called a ball in and the guy didn’t have his command and our guy got popped.”
After cooler heads prevailed, Abreu stayed in the game in front of a worked-up crowd of 36,123. A visibly contrite Karinchak apologized to Abreu, but the Sox still weren’t thrilled.
“You hit our man,” Anderson said. “They were throwing up and in all night. 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 and get [ticked]. But you know, he was OK. So we’ve got to keep pushing. We got the win. That’s the biggest thing. We got the win and Pito is OK.”
Getting hit in the head was the latest physical challenge this year for Abreu, who collided with Kansas City’s Hunter Dozier while trying to catch a pop-up, only to recover and eventually score a game-winning run on a wild pitch later that weekend.
“I think we are already at the max impressive list,” La Russa said. “We are into infinity now. He’s closing in on outer space someplace he’s such a tough guy. Very scary situation and we are glad he’s OK.”
This episode, however, seemed to reach the Sox differently. Lance Lynn, who went five innings and allowed three runs, said the Sox aren’t happy with how opponents approach Abreu, that they’d just rather hit him than face the 2020 AL MVP.
Abreu was also hit in the first with a 79.4 mph slider by Cleveland starter J.C. Mejia.
“That’s what we’re starting to see, and that’s not who we are as a team to let him just sit there and take it,” Lynn said.
The incident with Karinchak followed a top of the eighth that Tepera would like to forget.
Tepera allowed Franmil Reyes’ game-tying home run, a single and a walk before being removed without retiring a batter. Acquired Thursday from the Cubs, Tepera is expected to be a key part of the bullpen down the stretch for the division-leading Sox.
But Jose Ruiz cleaned up after Tepera, putting the Sox in position to take the lead in the bottom of the inning.
The Sox were without Eloy Jimenez (groin). La Russa said the Sox have their “fingers crossed” he can play this weekend.
Yoan Moncada homered in the second when Cleveland center fielder Bradley Zimmer appeared to have the ball in his glove but right fielder Daniel Johnson knocked into him, sending the ball over the fence.
Liam Hendriks pitched the ninth for his 26th save, swelling the Sox’ lead over the Indians to nine games.
Who’s at second?
Cesar Hernandez made his Sox debut Friday, hitting second and playing second base. Acquired from Cleveland, Hernandez was surprised to be traded to an AL Central rival.
General manager Rick Hahn praised Leury Garcia and Danny Mendick for their work replacing Nick Madrigal, but felt moving Garcia back to a super-utility role was important while finding an every-day second baseman.
“Cesar provides us with someone who not only obviously comes to us with a Gold Glove resume and has found a nice power stroke over the course of this season,” Hahn said,”but as a switch hitter, provides a professional at-bat to go with the solid defense, and is a nice, balancing factor for this lineup.”
Sticking with it
As for why the Sox didn’t address other potential needs (right field, backup catcher), Hahn seems content with what he has.
In right field, he listed off options that include Garcia, Andrew Vaughn, Gavin Sheets, Brian Goodwin, Adam Engel and Billy Hamilton. Behind the plate, Hahn said pitchers are comfortable throwing to Seby Zavala, Zack Collins is getting opportunities, and the Sox are optimistic Yasmani Grandal will be back soon.
Pump the brakes
Hahn indicated the Sox will be altering the workload of their rotation over the next 10 days, which could mean changing the timing of how pitchers are used after an off day. Eventually, the Sox might also bring up arms from the minors to take the ball to give the regular starters a breather.
Hahn said the reason for these moves is “to manage the best we can to try to keep guys healthy and strong and allow them to sprint through the finish line, which hopefully will be sometime around Halloween.”
To make room for Hernandez and Tepera on the active roster, the Sox optioned Mendick and reliever Ryan Burr to Triple-A Charlotte.
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