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Tony La Russa says Astros have a ‘character shortage’ after they eliminate his White Sox

The Chicago White Sox are officially out of the MLB playoffs and their manager Tony La Russa has some thoughts on the team that eliminated them.

Following Chicago’s 10-1 loss to the Houston Astros in a series-clinching Game 4, La Russa laid into the Astros for hitting White Sox star Jose Abreu with a pitch. 

La Russa claimed the hit-by-pitch was intentional and said the team should admit it.

“That stuff there in the eighth inning, it just leaves a bitter taste in your mouth and in my gut. There was a character shortage there that they should answer for. Stupid, too,” La Russa said. “I’ll be interested to see if they admit it. If they don’t admit, then they’re really dishonest.”

Abreu’s plunking came in the eighth inning against Astros reliever Kendall Graveman, with a full count and two outs. Here’s the pitch and La Russa’s angry reaction:

It’s hard to see what La Russa saw that made him so sure the Astros intentionally hit Abreu. Graveman’s command had been erratic the whole plate appearance, and intentional plunkings rarely occur with a full count (was the pitcher against hitting the batter until he had thrown five soon-to-be-useless pitches?).

Astros manager Dusty Baker was skeptical of his counterpart’s accusation, for multiple reasons.

Saying there is no bad blood between the Astros and White Sox may not be too accurate, though, as Baker’s team definitely had a bone to pick with White Sox reliever Ryan Tepera after the game.

Tepera had revived talk of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal when he implied the team may be cheating again at Minute Maid Park after Game 3, pointing to the difference in the quality of at-bats between its home and away games in the series.

Unlike Game 3, the Astros had little trouble generating offense in Game 4, and shortstop Carlos Correa delivered a rebuttal in a postgame interview with Fox Sports:

“Disrespectful words with no facts,” Correa said. “We have nothing to say. We scored six runs at home, then we scored, what, like nine? Then we scored six again here, they just happened to score 12. And then you look at our OPS on the road, was the best in all the big leagues through a 162-game season which we played 81 on the road. Their OPS was a lot higher at home than it was on the road.

“He needs to know the facts.”

Correa’s rebuttal treads on territory familiar to anyone who has seen the Astros push back on their label as cheaters. It’s an established fact that the team cheated in the 2017 regular season, 2017 postseason and 2018 regular season. The players admitted doing it to MLB investigators and have been dealing with the public repercussions ever since, just not any MLB-sanctioned punishments.

The Astros struggled to replicate their recent hitting success in last year’s shortened season, their first since their cheating was reported, but still struck out less than any team in baseball. Their hitting came back in a big way this year, however, with an MLB-best 863 runs on their way to a 95-67 record.

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