Tempers flare as Tigers battle back before falling short to White Sox
Detroit — In the end no punches were thrown and no apparent injuries were suffered. It may not even warrant any suspensions.
But what would the final home game of the 2021 season be without a benches-clearing altercation and another Tigers' comeback against the Central Division-rival White Sox?
"Nobody wants any trouble," Tigers manager AJ Hinch said after the Tigers were beaten by the White Sox 8-7 at Comerica Park in the makeup of the game that was postponed on Sept. 22. "But we're going to stand up for ourselves. If people are barking about us throwing at you and we're not throwing at you, we're going to stand up for ourselves, especially at home."
Trailing 8-2, the Tigers scored five times in the bottom of the eighth to make a game of it. As part of the rally, Tigers' second baseman Isaac Paredes was hit in the arm by a fastball from reliever Mike Wright, Jr.
In the top of the ninth, Tigers' reliever Alex Lange drilled Jose Abreu in the elbow with a 97-mph fastball on an 0-2 pitch. Abreu was upset and the White Sox bench was incensed.
"They were mad because Jose got hit," Hinch said. "They started yelling at Lange, so I'm going to stand up for my player. You can fix your own player, I'll manage my team. That's all I was mad about. They had no reason to bark at Lange. You can bark at me or bark at the umpire."
Crew chief Lance Barrett ejected White Sox bench coach Miguel Cairo.
Abreu stayed in the game and with one out tried to advance on a ball in the dirt, though he's only attempted one steal and didn't have much of a chance on this one. He slid late and hard, spikes up, at shortstop Niko Goodrum who tagged him out.
Had Goodrum not applied the tag, Abreu would have slid well past the bag.
The dirty slide wasn't enough, he proceeded to get into Goodrum's face. That's when the benches and bullpens emptied. No punches were thrown but there was a lot of contentious yapping.
"Let me set the record straight," Hinch said. "There is no reason to hit Jose Abreu, really ever. He does everything right on the field. We had two strikes on him. If you throw it out over the plate, he destroys you. We threw it inside and it hit him.
"He went in aggressively into second, little old-school with the slide. Tensions got high, emotions got high and we're all out on the field ... I don't think they hit us on purpose and I don't think we hit them on purpose. Emotions just boiled over."
Lange was by far the most agitated Tiger on the field. He had to be restrained and pulled away by coach Arnie Beyeler, who is the Tigers' Double-A manager.
"I was surprised he went in that hard and that late," Lange said. "I didn't expect it from him. Me hitting him wasn't intentional, that slide was intentional. I didn't agree with it.
"This team stands up for our guys out there. Nothing escalated. It was just a bunch of words."
Neither Lange nor Abreu were ejected and Lange was able to get out of the ninth without damage. He said he got ahead of Abreu with two fastballs down and away, both were fouled off and the game plan was to beat him up and in.
"He's leaning out over the plate. He sees I'm working away," Lange said. "Our report says finish up and in and that's where I was going. Obviously it wasn't intentional. I'm pitching to my (scouting) report. Obviously I'm not going to hit a guy in the ninth inning down by a run after we just put up a five-spot."
White Sox manager Tony La Russa was asked about the incident afterward.
"It seems they (Tigers) have issues when someone plays aggressively but not when they pitch aggressively and beyond the limits," he said. "The game is played two ways, not just one way."
The Tigers understood Abreu's fury. Even if it was unintentional, it hurt and he's been hit 21 times this season. Even the hard slide could be understood. But when he got up and started jawing with Goodrum, that's when things got hot.
"No one is trying to hit anybody but the fact of the matter is we did hit him," catcher Eric Haase said. "If he's pissed off, rightly so. But what followed after, I didn't expect that. The game has a way of taking care of itself.
"We hit him, he goes in aggressively, I thought it might be done there."
White Sox closer Liam Hendriks locked down the ninth inning without any further drama screaming like a Banshee after he struck out Haase and Goodrum.
"Anytime you face a team 19 times a season and they are in front of us in the standings, and our aspirations and desires are to win the division, it means we have to beat everybody," Lange said. "But I'm not out there trying to spark a rivalry. I am allowed to pitch in. I wasn't head-hunting. There was nothing malicious about it.
"Just trying to play the game."
The White Sox took advantage of three walks and scored six times against rookie starter Matt Manning in the fourth inning. The Tigers answered back with five in the bottom of the eighth.
The initial spark was provided by 38-year-old Miguel Cabrera, finishing his 14th home season in Detroit. He led off with a double, his second hit of the game. He now has 2,986 career hits and 597 career doubles.
Haase ripped a two-run single and Goodrum a two-run triple in the inning.
"I'm proud of our guys for how we fought back," Hinch said. "I don't like losing but we did make a game of it when for much of the day it didn't feel like we in control at all."
The Tigers finished their first winning home season since 2016 with a 42-39 record. They will conclude the season next week in Chicago against these same White Sox.
"Hopefully we will just go out and compete and play the game," Lange said.