All of the denials were in place, from White Sox right-hander Jimmy Cordero who delivered the pitch, and manager Rick Renteria, too.
It’s customary practice when a “pitch that got away” and hits someone, as Cordero’s fastball that zapped the Cubs’ Willson Contreras in the back, and has the look of retaliation.
“It was just a bad pitch, a bad pitch to him,” Cordero said. “The ball sinked a lot, and that happened. No, it was not intentional.”
“The ball got away from him,” Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He pitched him in and the ball got away.”
Umpire Dan Bellino and his crew, and Contreras, saw it differently.
Contreras had homered in the third inning against right-hander Dylan Cease in the Cubs’ 10-0 blowout victory at Guaranteed Rate Field. His bat flip, a spirited underhand toss straight up in the air — can we get an official “how far did it fly?” reading, please? — followed a howling roar from the visitors dugout as the ball left the park. The Cubs lineup had been struggling mightily and a celebration was understandable.
If the Sox were throwing at Contreras, it’s a bad look from a team whose shortstop and defending batting champion made bat flipping a “Change the Game” battle cry last season. Tim Anderson even held a bat-flip seminar at the team’s fan convention this winter.
“All the hype is on the guy on the other side when he bat flipped, right?” Cubs manager David Ross said. “I thought Tim Anderson’s bat flip last year where he flipped it and looked in his dugout, that’s what you want. That’s what Willson did.”
So it goes, though when losses mount, to the tune of six in a row for the Sox with two to play. They have clinched a postseason berth but will go to the playoffs riding an eight-game losing streak if the Cubs take two more Saturday and Sunday.
Bellino and his crew viewed Cordero’s pitch to Contreras in the seventh inning and had a strong feeling it was intentional, so after a conference they ejected the right-hander. Renteria and pitching coach Don Cooper, an airborne bottle of water preceding him, charged out of the dugout and were thrown out, too.
“I was a little livid because we were sure of how we viewed it, but understandably the umpires have a judgement on that and they did what they did,” Renteria said.
Renteria said he expects the Sox to be “a little bit more fired up to go play tomorrow.”
“Today, it was handed to us, right? A pitcher on the other side [Yu Darvish] that was really good, limited what we were able to string together if anything at all.”
Renteria maintains his team hadn’t played poorly or been blown out before Friday’s game, which also included sloppy defense — a dropped third strike by catcher Yasmani Grandal, a drop by Grandal on a tag play, a botched pitcher covering first play between Gio Gonzalez and Jose Abreu and a lollipop bouncing throw to first by lefty Jace Fry stood out.
“It’s not a question of motivation. It’s a question of performance,” Renteria said. “These guys understand what’s going on, trust me. They know where we’re at.”
“It’s not like we don’t know we are a good team,” Cease, who allowed three of the Cubs’ five home runs. “We just have to put it together.
“We’ve had a good season. The last week has been good. We have good players, we don’t need to panic or do anything drastically different. We just have to bring it to the park.”