Intentional walk with 1-2 count backfires on Tony La Russa and White Sox in loss to Dodgers
Dodgers rally from four-run deficit, score six unearned runs in fifth for 11-9 win, take series and drop White Sox to 26-29.
It was a beautiful afternoon for baseball, and White Sox manager Tony La Russa was saying what he often says, that “the beauty of baseball” is rehashing and second-guessing managerial strategy and in-game decisions.
La Russa made one in a maddening 11-9 loss Thursday against the Dodgers at Guaranteed Rate Field that had everyone talking. Intentionally walking Trea Turner with a 1-2 count and first base open in the sixth inning had media from across the country, fans and the Dodgers themselves questioning why he put Turner on.
Left-handed-hitting Max Muncy, who had five RBI, following that with an opposite-field three-run homer against lefty reliever Bennett Sousa blew up that decision. It gave the Dodgers a 10-5 lead. But La Russa, combative and defensive when questioned afterward, couldn’t believe the uproar.
“So let me ask you a question: Is there some question on whether that was a good move or not?” La Russa said.
Indeed. Mainly because of Sousa having an advantage over Turner with a 1-2 count.
“Muncy is there, so it’s an easy call for me,” La Russa said. “I mean, if Turner gets a hit there, I would be walking into the lake or something because that would have been stupid.”
Turner is 10-for-39 (.256) with 1-2 counts this season. Muncy, playing for the first time in 11 games because of elbow inflammation, has better numbers (.251/.365/.492) against lefties.
“I don’t get surprised too often, but that one, does anybody in this room really think, even with the count, should have gone after Turner?” La Russa said. “I would say that’s no chance. Muncy is the guy to get out of the inning. We just missed him.
“If someone disagrees, that’s the beauty of this game. But that wasn’t a tough call.”
With the under-performing Sox falling to three games below .500, La Russa, 77, is being scrutinized in the second year of his second tour with the Sox. A night after the Dodgers’ radio broadcast team questioned his lineup choice with struggling switch-hitter Leury Garcia in the leadoff spot in a 4-1 loss, it seemed everyone from the Dodgers’ camp was on the manager’s case, Muncy included.
“You walk a guy on 1-2, [bleep] you!” Muncy said after crossing home plate, turning his head in the direction of the Sox’ dugout.
The Sox were well-positioned to take the series, jumping to a 4-0 lead behind a breezing Dylan Cease. But an error on a double-play grounder to Jake Burger paved the way for a six-run Dodgers fifth, in which Cease threw a whopping 45 of his 110 pitches, a number that also left La Russa open to questions. Burger also didn’t charge Turner’s infield single that inning.
“Lost a game today, I take full responsibility for that,” said Burger, who also hit his seventh homer. “I need to be better in the field.”
Cease, who lowered his ERA to 3.18, said he felt fine and didn’t realize his count for the inning was that high. If only the Sox’ unforgiving, suspect defense hadn’t let him down.
“Really, it’s just on to the next one,” he said of the Burger miscues.
The Sox were a swing away from quieting the uproar over the intentional walk. They scored two in the ninth and brought the winning run to the plate, but Yasmani Grandal fouled out and pinch hitter Gavin Sheets struck out.
And so the focus shifted back to the intentional walk. Turner said he was “confused” when it was ordered after Sousa bounced an 0-2 slider for a wild pitch, moving Freddie Freeman to second.
“I didn’t know if I should go to first or not,” Turner said, “but I guess they liked the matchup.”
“The baseball mind in me gets it,” Muncy said. “Obviously, my year has sucked up to this point. Trea’s been really good.
“At the moment, I was animated, and I’ll just leave it at that. But at the same time, I don’t know if walking someone with two strikes is ever the right move.”