White Sox manager Tony La Russa said that while Max Muncy did break open the game with a three-run homer in the sixth inning after he ordered an intentional walk to Trea Turner with a 1-2 count in Chicago’s 11-9 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, he defended the thinking behind the call.
Down 6-5 after Freddie Freeman hit an RBI single in the sixth off left-hander Bennett Sousa, who then bounced an 0-2 slider for a wild pitch that allowed Freeman to take second, La Russa ordered the intentional walk to the right-handed-hitting Turner, who had singled in a run in the fifth.
“He’s got two strikes, Tony!” a fan yelled.
Muncy, whose two-run double off Dylan Cease put the Dodgers ahead 5-4 in the fifth, worked the count to 2-2 and sliced a slider to the opposite field and into the left-field seats, his fourth home run this season.
La Russa said after the game that he doesn’t think he did anything wrong.
“Is there some question about whether that was good move or not?” La Russa, a 77-year-old Hall of Famer, said. “Do you know what [Turner] hits against left-handed pitching with 0-1 or two strikes? Do you know what Muncy hits with two strikes against a left-handed pitcher? Is that really a question? We had an open base and Muncy happened to be the guy behind him and that’s a better matchup.
“Somebody disagrees, that’s the beauty of this game, they’re welcome to it. But that wasn’t a tough call.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Turner is a .254 career hitter after a 1-2 count against a lefty pitcher, and this season he is hitting .333 (5-for-15) in such situations.
Muncy, who had five RBIs in his return after missing 11 games because of left elbow inflammation, entered hitting .150 to Turner’s .303.
“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,” Muncy added. “But at the same time, I don’t know if walking someone with two strikes is ever the right move.
“It kind of gave me something that I really haven’t had a lot of this year. In the past I’ve always been the guy who [was] very fiery and had a lot of edge. To kind of get that back felt really good, to be honest.”
Turner, for his part, said he was thrown off by La Russa’s unorthodox decision.
“I was just confused,” Turner said. “I didn’t know if I should go to first or not, but I guess they liked the matchup.”
Chicago closed late with two runs against Daniel Hudson, who needed 35 pitches to get through the ninth, but it wasn’t enough for the White Sox to avoid defeat against the Dodgers. With two on and one out, Yasmani Grandal popped out, and pinch hitter Gavin Sheets followed with a game-ending strikeout.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.