Tempers flared Monday afternoon at the Comerica Park. An errant pitch and an aggressive slide prompted the benches to clear in the ninth inning of a makeup game between the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox (CWS 8, DET 7). The game was a makeup game of a rainout last week.
In the top of the ninth, Tigers righty Alex Lange hit reigning AL MVP José Abreu in the arm with a pitch, which led to chirping from the Chicago dugout. Later in the inning Abreu slid into second base aggressively when a ball skipped away from catcher Eric Haase. Abreu and shortstop Niko Goodrum exchanged words, and the benches cleared.
Here's the entire sequence. As is often the case when the benches clear, no punches were thrown, and there was a lot of standing around and shouting.
"It seems like [the Tigers] have issues when someone plays aggressively, but not when they pitch aggressively and beyond the limits," White Sox manager Tony La Russa told reporters, including ESPN's Jesse Rogers, following the game. Monday's starter Dallas Keuchel took it one step further, telling Rogers, "If I was pitching tomorrow I'd stick up for [Abreu] myself."
A half-inning prior to the fracas, White Sox righty Mike Wright Jr. plunked Tigers infielder Isaac Paredes with a pitch, though it was clearly unintentionally. Chicago held an 8-2 lead at the time and the hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with no outs. The Tigers went on to push across five runs in the inning, turning a would-be blowout into a stressful win for the White Sox.
"Let me just set the record straight: there is no reason to hit José Abreu, really ever. He does everything right on the field, he had nothing to do with anything," Tigers manager AJ Hinch said (video). "We had two strikes on him. Throw the ball out over the plate he destroys it, so we threw inside, it hit him, and given that they hit one of our guys, he went aggressive into second, old school ...I don't think they hit us on purpose, we didn't hit them on purpose."
The White Sox clinched the AL Central title last week and are essentially playing meaningless games. They're all but certain to face the Astros in the ALDS, and really all they have left to secure is home-field advantage over the two American League wild card teams in case they meet in the ALCS. Otherwise this last week should -- should -- be a low-stress week for Chicago.
The Tigers are a non-contender with nothing to lose. The White Sox don't want to talk or retaliate their way into another incident that leads to an injury, especially to a player like Abreu. Yes, teams want to stick up for their guys, especially the reigning MVP, but Chicago would be smart not to let this snowball into something larger. They have nothing to gain and a lot to lose.
These two AL Central rivals will close out the regular season with three games in Chicago this coming weekend. Keuchel is not currently scheduled to pitch in the series, though Sunday's starter is listed as TBA.