CHICAGO — Indians baseball without Terry Francona looked a lot like Indians baseball with Terry Francona.
Well, except for the bench-clearing incident in the eighth inning Friday night that started when James Karinchak hit Jose Abreau in the batting helmet with a pitch and escalated when White Sox manager Tony La Russa shoved catcher Roberto Perez as Perez was trying to check on Abreu.
Other than that, acting manager DeMarlo Hale received a shaky start from a rookie starter, some terrible defense and not enough offense from anybody not named Franmil Reyes. Does that sound familiar?
So the Indians lost, 6-4, to Chicago on their 100th game of the season and first official game without Francona. On Thursday the team announced that Francona was stepping away as manager for the remainder of the season to undergo hip and foot surgery in an attempt to regain his health.
Hale, the bench coach, will steer the Indians through the final 62 games of the season. It is hoped they offer more consistency and tranquility than Friday night. The loss dropped the Indians to nine games behind the White Sox in the AL-Central. They are 5-8 since the All-Star break.
“I’m sure Tony was going out to check on his player and said something to Roberto,” said Hale. “I think Tony knew we weren’t trying to hit Abreu intentionally. When I saw them getting a little bit closer that’s when I went out there.
“It looked like they were talking a little bit more (aggressively). Then the benches cleared. But I think we understand the situation of the game. We weren’t trying to hit him. I think Roberto was trying to explain that as well.”
Said Perez, “In that situation we’re trying to pitch him up and in. That’s where we pitch him. He’s a good hitter.”
As for La Russa pushing him, Perez said, “In the heat of the game I understand Tony is going to pick up his players. But in that situation I’m not trying to hit him (Abreu). He came at me and pushed me. He shouldn’t push me in the first place. In that situation we’re not trying to hit anybody.”
Reyes pulled the Indians into a 4-4 tie with his 20th homer of the season, a leadoff drive in the eighth off Ryan Tepera, acquired from the Cubs on Thursday. The next two batters reached, but with no outs the Indians couldn’t get the go-ahead run home.
The White Sox broke the tie with two runs in the eighth. The inning featured Perez’s second error of the game and his second passed ball since 2018. It could have included two more errors by shortstop Amed Rosario and third baseman Jose Ramirez except from some generous official scoring.
Leury Garcia reached on an infield grounder that could have been scored an error on Rosario to start the inning. Garcia went to second on a passed ball and third on Perez’s errant pickoff attempt at second. Tim Anderson singled off Karinchak for a 5-4 lead. After a bunt single to third by Cesar Hernandez loaded the bases, Karinchak hit Abreu to force home the sixth run.
Karinchak, who took the loss, was replaced by Nick Wittgren, who ended the inning.
If it’s not one thing, it’s another for rookie right-hander J.C. Mejia. He came into Friday’s game having allowed 11 homers in his last five starts. One of those was for Class AAA Columbus.
Friday he kept the ball in the park — with the exception of a home-run producing collision between outfielders Bradley Zimmer and Daniel Johnson in the second inning — but fell prey to walks. The free pass had not previously been a problem with Mejia .
But in the fifth he walked three straight batters with one out and the score tied, 3-3. Blake Parker stepped into the mess and struck out Yoan Moncada, but walked Andrew Vaughn to give Chicago a 4-3 lead. Parker came back to end the inning with a strikeout.
The Indians took a 2-0 lead in the first on a bases-loaded single by Reyes off Lance Lynn. Zimmer opened the game with a single and went to third on Rosario’s double. Lynn hit Jose Ramirez with a pitch to load the bases and bring Reyes to the plate.
The Indians had a chance to do more damage, but Ramirez was thrown out at third on Reyes’ single and Lynn struck out Harold Ramirez and Daniel Johnson.
The White Sox scored their first run on a gift homer that Johnson should have gotten an assist on. Moncada sent a drive to the track in right center. Zimmer was positioned to catch it. He put a glove on the ball, but Johnson sprinting over from right collided with him and knocked the ball over the fence.
It wasn’t Jose Canseco heading Carlos Martinez’s ball over the fence at Municipal Stadium on May 23, 1993, but it wasn’t far behind.
“DJ didn’t hear Zimmer because Zimmer had got there before him,” said Hale. “DJ just didn’t hear him because of the crowd. You’ve got to peek at the end to see where the other outfielder is. It didn’t work out that time.
“I’m surprised the ball went over the wall. It was one of those freak things. DJ has to look to see where the center fielder is.”
The White Sox scratched out two runs in a more conventional manner to take a 3-2 lead in the fourth. Moncada singled and Andrew Vaughn walked one out. Brian Goodwin singled softly to right to score Moncada and send Vaughn to third.
Garcia sent what appeared to be a double play ball to second baseman Ernie Clement. He threw to Rosario for the force at second, but Leury beat Rosario’s relay to first as Vaughn scored.
Jose Ramirez made it 3-3 with a two-out single off Lynn in the fifth. Zimmer drew a one-out walk, took second on a ground out and scored on Ramirez’s line-drive single to center. It was only Ramirez’s 21st RBI on the road compared to 40 at home.
Next: RHP Triston McKenzie (1-4, 5.61) vs. LHP Dallas Keuchel (7-4, 4.32) Saturday at 7:10 p.m. Bally Sports Great Lakes, WTAM, WMMS and the Indians radio network will carry the game.
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