CHICAGO — The circumstances seemed incriminating, given the inside pitch and the staredown that preceded it, but Rays INF Felipe Lopez claimed innocence after flipping his bat toward the mound after his ninth-inning home run off White Sox reliever Chris Sale.
"It was unfortunate, but I wasn't trying to do that," Lopez said. "I wasn't mad at anything. The bat, it slipped, and it went over there. I think if I tried to do that, it wouldn't happen."
Sox C A.J. Pierzynski, obviously, believed Lopez did so on purpose given the words he had for Lopez at home plate, though he later feigned ignorance and told reporters: "I don't know what you are talking about. I just said hi. He lives down the street from me in Orlando, and I was asking how his house was."
Rays manager Joe Maddon acknowledged, "That's not something you really like to see."
Lopez called Sox manager Ozzie Guillen after the game to apologize, and Guillen appeared to accept, saying, "I don't think he meant to throw (the bat) to the pitcher."
Sale, a 2010 draft pick from Lakeland and Florida Gulf Coast University, wasn't sure what to think. His first pitch was down and in. Lopez quickly got back in the box, gave him a long stare then knocked the next pitch over the leftfield fence.
"I looked down, and there was a bat at my feet. I said, 'Hey, what's going on?' " Sale said. "I tried not to let if affect me. It happened. Words were said, and that was the end of it. I still had to go out there and get those last three outs."
Lopez said he had no issues with the inside pitch and didn't know whether to expect retaliation today: "It's baseball, man. I'm a … man. Whatever happens, happens. At least I know I didn't do it on purpose."
JAKE-BITTEN: Rookie LHP Jake McGee has had a rough start, allowing six of the 14 batters he has faced to reach base, including a three-run homer to the Orioles' Brian Roberts on April 2 and a walk followed by a two-run double Saturday.
"Overtly concerned? No," Maddon said. "But it's a young pitcher we're trying to get his feet on the ground, trying to put him in the right spots against good matchups. And to this point, it hasn't worked out. But no, I'm not losing confidence in him."
DESIGNATED: With Manny Ramirez, who was the 103rd DH in the Rays' inglorious history, now gone, most of the at-bats will be shared by Dan Johnson and Johnny Damon (who was the 104th on Friday).
"This position for us has been elusive, but we'll continue to try our best to get some positive production out of it," Maddon said. "We have a lot of different ways to go that could still be a very productive DH this year. I kind of like those two because I think they do it well."
As for the whole Ramirez issue?
"Honestly, I don't really see a big hangover from that at all, quite frankly," Maddon said. "Unless you asked me that question right now, I would not have even thought about it."
ABOUT FRIDAY NIGHT: The 9-7 win marked the first time in nearly five years Rays pitchers didn't record a strikeout, the eighth time in team history and third time in a victory. They were the first team to win without a strikeout since the Tigers on June 13, 2010, against Pittsburgh. … It was the sixth time in team history (and third on the road) they rallied from a deficit of three or more runs in the ninth to win, last on Sept. 27, 2009, at Texas. … RHP Kyle Farnsworth got his first save since June 13, 2008. … INF Elliot Johnson didn't know it immediately, but he was the emergency backup catcher with both Kelly Shoppach and Sean Rodriguez out of the game. Said bullpen coach Bobby Ramos, "That would be 911."
MISCELLANY: The Rays scored first for the first time this season. … CF B.J. Upton's hitting streak ended at seven. … The Rays issued six walks after just 14 in the first seven games.