James Karinchak didn't hit José Abreu on purpose.
But the Chicago White Sox are sick of seeing their team leader, the reigning MVP, get drilled.
"I know he didn't try to," White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said. "But still, though, our man's on the ground. Of course everybody's going to be mad in that situation."
Abreu took a 96 mile an hour fastball off his helmet in the eighth inning Friday, his advancement to first base driving in the final run in the White Sox 6-4 win. But for a while there, it was uncertain whether he'd make it to first base, Abreu dropping to the ground as manager Tony La Russa came running out of the dugout.
La Russa had a heated exchange with Cleveland Indians catcher Roberto Pérez, leading to the benches clearing while Karinchak squatted on the mound with his head in his hands and Abreu got checked out by the trainer.
In the end, Abreu made it to first base, which should be no surprise by now, not in a season where he's taken one blow after another on the field and bounced back from all of them.
"I think we are already at the max (on the) impressive list. We are into infinity now. He’s closing in on outer space someplace, he’s such a tough guy," La Russa said. "Very scary situation, and we are glad he’s OK."
But even though Abreu responded to Karinchak's on-field apology with a hug for the pitcher who had drilled him moments earlier, his teammates want the league to know how they feel:
Stop hitting Abreu.
"I think that’s what kind of gets people fired up the most, the abuse he gets," White Sox starting pitcher Lance Lynn said. "Guys aren’t afraid to just let s--- fly in there, and that’s not well received on our side and we’re not happy about it. Tonight was one of many times that we’ve shown it.
"And we’re going to make sure that he doesn’t just get hit (for) the hell of it just because they don’t want to face him. That’s what we’re starting to see, and that’s not who we are as a team to let him just sit there and take it."
It was a wild ending to a wild night on the South Side.
Before the game, general manager Rick Hahn pulled off a blockbuster, acquiring All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel from the Crosstown-rival Cubs. In the second inning, Yoán Moncada's fly ball to the warning track ended up a home run when two Cleveland outfielders collided and bounced the ball over the wall. In the top of the eighth, new White Sox reliever Ryan Tepera gave up a game-tying homer to the first batter he faced. In the bottom of the inning, a flood of Cleveland fielding miscues allowed the White Sox to retake the lead.
That's the Cliff's Notes version of a three-and-a-half-hour affair between division rivals, who a day earlier completed a trade to give the White Sox a new second baseman in César Hernández, whose infield single loaded the bases ahead of Abreu getting hit.
But the lasting image of the night will surely be La Russa getting emotional and charging out of the third-base dugout with the White Sox leader on the ground.
"High-kneeing his ass off getting out there. I loved it," Lynn said. "You know, that’s who Tony is. Tony is always going to have us, and that’s what we love about him."
The White Sox manager repeatedly assured that he knew Cleveland wasn't trying to do anything to hurt Abreu intentionally. But he acknowledged the danger they put him in with Karinchak clearly not in command of his pitches.
"The guy did not have command, and it’s scary to call the ball inside," La Russa said. "There was no question it was not intentional. That guy lacked command, and it was scary to throw the ball. If you are going to throw the ball in, get it down."
In the end — considering Abreu's been through a frightening on-field collision, sprained his ankle while sliding into home plate, got hit by a bat tossed by an umpire and had been hit 11 times coming into Friday's game — it's entirely reasonable that the White Sox have had enough of seeing the heart and soul of their team down in a heap.
"He's tough," Anderson said. "He wants to be in there every day. You know he's been battling a lot of things throughout the whole season. It just shows how tough he is to go out there and give us everything he got."