CHICAGO — White Sox manager Tony La Russa took umbrage postgame when questioned about intentionally walking Trea Turner with a 1-2 count in the sixth inning of the Dodgers’ 11-9 victory Thursday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field.
His reaction came after many fans and pundits disagreed across social media concerning the move, which was followed by Max Muncy’s three-run home run off left-handed reliever Bennett Sousa. But La Russa confidently stood by his call, much like a manager who has built confidence over the years behind three World Series titles and 2,847 career victories.
In fact, he found it hard to believe the question was being asked.
“Do you know what he [Turner] hits against left-handed pitching with one [strike], 0-1, or two strikes, do you know what he hits?” La Russa asked. “Do you know what Muncy hits with two strikes, against a left-handed pitcher. Is that really a question?
“Because it was 1-2? Turner with a strike left against a left-hander is something you avoid if you can, and we had an open base and Muncy being the guy behind him, and that’s a better matchup. There again, if somebody disagrees, that’s the beauty of this game. Welcome to it. But that wasn’t a tough call.”
Having the left-handed Sousa against the left-handed-hitting Muncy certainly does make sense, especially with the opportunity to pitch around Turner, who might be the most dangerous hitter in a highly potent lineup. Turner entered Thursday 5-for-15 after getting into a 1-2 count against a left-hander this season and was 7-for-27 with one home run in any two-strike count southpaws.
The intentional walk also didn’t happen until Freddie Freeman moved from first to second on a Sousa wild pitch, leaving first base open. It was a move that fired up Muncy, who had just returned from the injured list prior to the game, and he had a few choice words in the heat of competition as he crossed home plate — although the baseball mind in Muncy got it.
“Obviously my year has sucked up to this point. Trea has been really good,” Muncy said. “But in the moment, I was animated and obviously did that. The baseball mind in me gets it. At the same time, I don’t know that walking someone with two strikes is ever the right move. But I understand it now. But at the time, you get a little animated.”
“I was just confused. That was it really. I didn’t know if I should go to first or not,” Turner said. “But I guess they liked the matchup. Everybody wants to kind of take it personally or stick it to the opposing team when they come after you. That’s good. You should, and when you deliver in those situations you should be excited.”
Los Angeles scored four runs in the fateful sixth and then held on for the two-run victory. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he had never seen an intentional walk on 1-2 before, but added that La Russa knew his guys, and he’s a Hall of Fame manager who he wasn’t going to question.
While processing and fully answering all the questions, La Russa still seemed surprised there even was a question for this moment.
“If Turner gets a hit there, I would be walking into the lake or something because that would have been stupid,” La Russa said. “And he did get a hit, Muncy. Got behind him and threw a slider that didn’t break. To his credit, instead of trying to hook it, he played it.
“I don’t get surprised too often but that one … Does anybody in this room really think Turner should have, even with the count, should have gone after Turner? I would say that’s no chance. Muncy is the guy to get out of the inning. We just missed him.”