Jose Abreu, Sox fume after slugger is hit by pitch for 21st time; La Russa calls win “one of best moments of the year”
It was the 11th day of a three-city road trip, and if returning to Detroit Monday for one last game to make up a rainout on what could have been a needed off day wasn’t enough, Jose Abreu got hit with a pitch on the elbow in the very last inning of the entire expedition.
Alex Lange’s fastball didn’t have the appearance of being intentional but the Sox are fed up with seeing their reigning MVP and veteran leader get hit 21 times this season. Manager Tony La Russa had words from the dugout and bench coach Miguel Cairo had spicier ones that got him ejected, but Abreu calmly took first base as he always does.
But when Abreu was out trying to take second base on a ball in the dirt, he slid hard and past second base. Words were exchanged with shortstop Nico Goodrum, both benches cleared, and Abreu — visibly as upset as he’s ever been seen — had to be restrained by rookie Gavin Sheets’ bear hug.
“It seems like they have issues when someone plays aggressively but not when they pitch aggressively and beyond the limits,” said La Russa, who otherwise bit his tongue on the subject.
“You can ask, but I’ve got nothing to say about it because people will take things out of context, turn it around,” La Russa said.
Lange had this to say: “I was surprised he went in that hard and that late. It was obvious that [the hit by pitch] was not intentional.”
In any event, La Russa was just happy his team, which clinched the AL Central four days earlier, held on to beat the Tigers 8-7 Monday at Comerica Park.
“The way our club got ready to play this last game of this road trip is one of our best moments of the year,” La Russa said before the Sox headed home to play the final five games of the regular season, the last three against the Tigers this weekend.
“Mentally, they reached down as deep and as tough as we have all year,” La Russa said, “just because they love to compete.”
Yasmani Grandal and Eloy Jimenez homered and combined for five hits, and Cesar Hernandez and each drove in two runs. Dallas Keuchel (9-9, 5.13 ERA), fighting for a spot on the postseason roster, pitched five innings of two-run ball. Liam Hendriks struck out two while recording his 37th save.
Before the game, La Russa said Keuchel was getting an opportunity to continue “trending forward.”
“There’s enough factors left that are going to impact who gets the ball, what’s the roster going to look like, all that stuff,” La Russa said.
“They say don’t spin your wheels too much until you know what you’ve got.”
With Carlos Rodon’s status in question and Lance Lynn (knee, back) and Dylan Cease (bruised triceps) needing to confirm their readiness for the postseason in their final starts this weekend, nothing is etched in stone for the pitching side of the playoff roster.
“I felt like I had really, really good stuff today, right on par with who I am,” Keuchel said.
Keuchel ($18 million), who shares highest-paid Sox honors in 2021 with Grandal ($18.25 million), has the most decorated career resume of any Sox pitcher but has pitched below career norms. He has allowed two runs in each of his last three starts and isn’t being dismissed as in postseason considerations.
That said, Keuchel is not satisfied averaging below five innings over his last eight starts.
“I would like to be better,” he said. “I don’t know what the future is going to say in the next week or two but you can’t really say a whole more than what the other four starters have done this whole year. I’m extremely proud of what this starting staff has done.”
La Russa said he is proud of his entire 89-68 team.
“It was really hard for them to mentally create the energy and the commitment to compete in that game,” he said. “I hope our fans add that to the list of why they like them so much.”