White Sox, manager Tony La Russa had correct response to Donaldson

The Sox are showing signs of life after their so-so start.

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White Sox manager Tony La Russa (third from right) with players and coaches from both the White Sox and Yankees stand on the field Saturday at Yankees Stadium.

White Sox manager Tony La Russa (third from right) with players and coaches from both the White Sox and Yankees stand on the field Saturday at Yankees Stadium.

Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Give White Sox manager Tony La Russa credit for not ordering someone on his pitching staff to stick one in Yankees instigator Josh Donaldson’s ribs.

After everything that went down Saturday, with Donaldson taunting Sox shortstop Tim Anderson by calling him ‘‘Jackie,’’ Anderson taking offense and a benches-clearing fracas resulting because of it, everyone wondered what the Sox response would be.

Donaldson, after all, had mixed it up with them before.

So a message pitch from veteran Johnny Cueto in Game 1 of the doubleheader Sunday wouldn’t have surprised anyone.

But there is no good sense in that, no need to put a runner on base who could become a winning run, no need for anyone to risk injury from a pitch or another melee that might have followed.

And La Russa, a 78-year-old as old-school as they come, gave his team a chance to react in the best way possible — on the field.

‘‘You know what? It’s the way we’re going about it,’’ La Russa said after the Sox won Game 1. ‘‘You want to score because that’s how you [respond]. We went after that game. Guys went after it.’’

The Sox then completed a doubleheader sweep of the team with the best record in the majors in what easily was the best day of their season and probably their best day since Anderson homered against the Yankees in the ‘‘Field of Dreams’’ game Aug. 12.

Anderson homered in his final at-bat Sunday, a three-run shot to the opposite field that looked a lot like his walk-off home run against the Yankees in the Iowa cornfields. He didn’t talk with reporters before Game 1, during which he rested, and declined to talk after Game 2.

Fans were talking at him, though, booing him and calling him ‘‘Jackie.’’ But Anderson’s bat did his talking, and it silenced a Yankees crowd that watched him put his finger to his lips as he rounded third and touched home plate.

‘‘When somebody disrespects him, he should get upset,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘I know I would.’’

Meanwhile, the Sox came together at a time when they desperately needed to. A World Series contender going into this season in the middle of their championship window, their first month and a half has featured lackluster defense (not unexpected) and bottom-of-the-majors hitting (unexpected). But with 78 hits on a 5-3 road tripthat started in Kansas City, the Sox showed hints of rounding back into form. The next step is hitting with runners in scoring position.

‘‘We’re working on that,’’ La Russa said.

Emotionally, there’s no work to be done. Donaldson did that for them, putting a charge into the clubhouse.

What’s more, the sweep of the Yankees was fueled by starting pitching that was — and will be — the Sox’ backbone. Cueto was unscored on for the second second time in as many six-inning outings, and Michael Kopech (1.29 ERA) looked dominant again.

Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease well might be in the Cy Young Award chase, and Lance Lynn, a regular in the same class, is coming soon. Dallas Keuchel and Vince Velasquez might be getting squeezed out of a group that leaves no room.

So things aren’t as dim for the Sox (21-20), who didn’t expect to be chasing the Twins in the American League Central, as they were a few days ago. That’s what being smart and unemotional about responding to Donaldson — and taking a series from the Yankees — will do.

Channel the emotional energy in the right way, as Anderson did by going 3-for-5 with a three-run homer Sunday in Game 2.

‘‘That speaks huge to Tim’s character and what we’re trying to be in this clubhouse,’’ Kopech said. ‘‘And that’s a family.’’

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