MILWAUKEE — No one can accuse the Chicago White Sox of not being an emotional bunch, of wearing their hearts on their sleeves.
In the thick of a clash with the Milwaukee Brewers, the other Central Division's first-place club, the South Siders unleashed a couple outbursts directed toward home-plate umpire John Libka, earning a couple ejections from what ended up a 7-1 loss to open a weekend set that could serve as a potential World Series preview.
"Sometimes if you care about winning, which we do, you flare up," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said after the game. "Sometimes it goes too far. Today it went too far."
La Russa was the first to get tossed, the White Sox clearly frustrated by Libka's strike zone in the bottom of the seventh inning. Aaron Bummer and Ryan Burr combined to walk four batters in the frame, the second of Burr's two free passes forcing in a run and bringing La Russa out for a chat with the umpires. He was given the heave-ho shortly thereafter.
The Brewers immediately responded with a grand slam off Burr, busting the game wide open.
When the White Sox came to bat in the eighth, those frustrations continued, and shortstop Tim Anderson went off in the visitors' dugout in response to a strike call during Yoán Moncada's at-bat, screaming at Libka and earning his own ejection. He, as they say, got his money's worth and continued screaming at Libka while White Sox coach Shelley Duncan escorted him to the clubhouse.
"Frustrations got high with the way the game was being called against us," White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said. "I got frustrated a couple times, I just tried not to show it out there.
"Sometimes it just kind of hits that breaking point, and it hit that breaking point for Tony and Timmy. It's just how it goes sometimes.
"We play with a lot of emotion on this team. We come out, put our heart and soul in it. And when we feel we're getting things taken away from us, it's not going to make us feel good."
La Russa made sure to point out after the game that he didn't believe any of the calls that set the White Sox off were the end-all, be-all determinant of a lengthy ballgame: "The umpires didn't decide that game."
And watching the White Sox offense struggle to muster much of anything against Brewers pitching, it was easy to agree with him.
For six and a half innings Friday night, the matchup between the two first-place clubs lived up to the hype of a possible late-October preview. But even though the White Sox bullpen stumbled, pointing out what Rick Hahn's biggest need is as the trade deadline approaches, the team's late-game outbursts can be viewed as another example of what's helped get it this far in the first place: a clubhouse culture built on playing the game with emotion and a singular focus on winning each and every night.
"You get your team to play with emotion. That's how you succeed and compete," La Russa said. "And in a situation like that, we got emotional."