Tony La Russa made what seemed to be a very curious decision late in Friday night’s Chicago White Sox-Anaheim Angels game, but the move makes a lot more sense than on the surface.
La Russa’s White Sox were leading the Angels 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth inning. Mike Trout walked to lead off for the Angels, and the next two batters made outs, although Trout advanced to second.
Then, with Trout at second and two outs, La Russa decided to intentionally walk Albert Pujols.
Pujols hit a three-run home run earlier in the game, so maybe that was fresh in La Russa’s mind. But most people recognize that Pujols, at 41, isn’t half the player he was when La Russa managed him in St. Louis. La Russa probably does, too.
So why did La Russa issue the free pass to Pujols? Probably because La Russa’s more immediate concern was getting dominant closer Liam Hendricks in the game.
Reliever Michael Kopech began pitching the eighth but was pulled after walking Trout. Next up was Evan Marshall, who got two outs. Due to the three-batter minimum rule, if La Russa wanted to make a pitching change, intentionally walking Pujols was the way to do it.
Hendriks has had a dominant sub-2.00 ERA the last two seasons and is extremely reliable. He faced Jose Iglesias and got him out to end the inning, keeping Chicago’s lead intact, so the strategy worked out.