Benches clear in White Sox’ win over Tigers

Jose Abreu and the Sox were fuming after the slugger was hit by a pitch for the 21st time. Tony La Russa called the victory “one of the best moments of the year.”

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Jose Abreu is restrained by Gavin Sheets (behind Abreu) and assistant hitting coach Howie Clark after a play at second base Monday. (Getty Images)

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It was the 11th day of a three-city road trip, and if returning to Detroit on Monday for one last game to make up a rainout on what could have been a needed day off wasn’t enough, Jose Abreu got hit with a pitch on the elbow in the last inning of the entire expedition.

Alex Lange’s fastball didn’t have the appearance of being intentional, but the White 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 saltier 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 Niko Goodrum, both benches cleared, and Abreu — visibly as upset as he has 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.’’

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 that his team, which clinched the American League Central four days earlier, held on to beat the Tigers 8-7 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. 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 and got 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 the roster is 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 last 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 is up there with Grandal ($18.25 million) as the highest-paid Sox players in 2021, has the most decorated career résumé 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 from postseason consideration.

That said, Keuchel is not satisfied averaging less than five innings in 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 lot 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.”

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