If Pedro Strop was ridiculed by Bob Costas for something as innocuous as pointing to the sky earlier this year, what would baseball purists think about the Cubs reliever ripping off two massive fist pumps following a late-game strikeout Friday afternoon?
Whatever firestorm Strop caused on social media after striking out Tyler Saladino with the tying run on second to end the eighth was quickly diffused by those inside the White Sox clubhouse following the Cubs’ 6-5 win at U.S. Cellular Field.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 15, 2015
“It’s part of the game, it really is,” center fielder Adam Eaton, who Strop struck out before Saladino, said. “I think fan bases like it, I do. I think it brings a little bit of flair to baseball that hasn’t always been there. I think the old-time guys would say ‘Save it, get off the mound.’ But other people, including me, think it could be good for your team and can really push your team to the end. It was a big moment in the game and ended up being a key part. Hats off to him, he made his pitches.”
The root of Strop’s celebration seemed to stem from gestures made in his direction by White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who was on second base during Eaton and Saladino’s at-bats. Strop made a couple of body turns toward second base during his delivery, during which Ramirez said he light-heartedly tried to sign that he was close to the bag and there was no need to keep turning toward him.
"He kind of stole my attention a little bit on that one when he gave me that ‘No, no, no,’" Strop said. "I feel like he was kind of showing me up. I’m aware of the situation. I just put in my head: I don’t have to get you out. I can get the guy at the plate.
“Nothing personal," Strop added.
Explained Ramirez: “It wasn’t trying to disrespect him. It was just like, we’re okay, I was close. I don’t know if he took that in a bad way probably because of the intensity of the game. I don’t know what happened there.”
After fanning Saladino on a 3-2 slider, Strop turned toward Ramirez and unleashed his fist pumps, but the longtime White Sox shortstop didn’t have a problem with the pitcher’s exultation.
“It was (in) the heat of the game,” Ramirez said. “The moment, we were trying to get some runs. He (got) out of the moment without damage and that was the way he could celebrate that.”
Thanks to Strop's escape, the Cubs won their eighth consecutive game in a row and hold a sizable lead over the San Francisco Giants for the National League's second wild card spot. The White Sox, meanwhile, slipped further down the American League playoff ladder and sit at five games under .500.
“I’m kind of an excited pitcher," Strop said. "I’m aware of the situation. I’m aware of the game. I’m aware of the importance of the inning that I’m pitching, the situation, and sometimes that gets me up.”