The Chicago White Sox were eliminated from the playoffs on Tuesday after losing Game 4 of their American League Division Series, 10-1, to the Houston Astros. The White Sox, specifically manager Tony La Russa, did not go quietly into the winter, however.
Rather, La Russa made it clear that he took exception to first baseman José Abreu being hit by a Kendall Graveman fastball with a full count and two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning -- and that he thought the Astros intentionally plunked Abreu. "They should have the guts to admit that they did it. Why they did it, I don't understand," La Russa said, according to James Fegan of The Athletic.
Here's video of the pitch in question:
As you can see, Astros catcher Martín Maldonado set up low and away. Graveman then missed as badly as a pitcher can, hitting Abreu in the upper arm. It's worth noting that Graveman had been erratic the entire sequence. Take a look at his pitch chart:
La Russa did not offer an explanation for why he believed Graveman would target Abreu, or why he felt that Graveman would wait until he had a full count to run a pitch far enough inside to nick him. It stands to reason that La Russa may have been concerned the Astros felt José Altuve had been plunked intentionally earlier in the game by Carlos Rodón. (To be clear, that too appeared to be accidental given the circumstances.) It also stands to reason that the teams have ill conceptions of one another after trading barbs the last few days, all stemming from when White Sox reliever Ryan Tepera implied the Astros might be stealing signs again, the way they did during the 2017 season.
Astros manager Dusty Baker, for his part, said the hit by pitch was not intentional:
#Astros Baker on LaRussa's comments that Graveman's HBP was on purpose. "...no way, if anybody knew Graveman, the situation in the game...I don't think there's bad blood b/w these teams...there's no reason to hit Abreu, he hadn't done anything to us...no reason to do that. Zero."— Adam Wexler (@AdamJWexler) October 12, 2021
Whatever the case, La Russa, 77, made something else clear on Tuesday, stating his preference to return for the 2022 season. "We have more to do," he said, again according to Fegan. La Russa did concede that the decision will be up to the front office, but the contract he signed last offseason was reportedly multiple years in length. It would come as a surprise, then, if he isn't retained.
Provided La Russa is around, next season's White Sox-Astros series could get even more dramatic.