Strop records key K after exchange with Alexei

Strop records key K after exchange with Alexei

CHICAGO -- Pedro Strop's strikeout of Tyler Saladino with two on and two out in the eighth inning punctuated a 6-5 Cubs victory over the White Sox Friday evening at U.S. Cellular Field.

Actually, it was Strop's two wildly demonstrative fist pumps after Saladino swung through the 3-2 slider that put an exclamation point on the North Siders' eighth straight victory. Strop's reaction spoke to the heat of the moment, with a playoff-like atmosphere playing out before 36,386 frenzied fans.

It also had a little bit to do with some gamesmanship taking place between Strop and Alexei Ramirez, who stood as the tying run on second at the time. Strop made two moves back to second to keep Ramirez close, even with nobody covering the base at the time. On that second move, Ramirez sort of waved his fingers to indicate he wasn't going anywhere.

Strop briefly stared down Ramirez, and then after a mound visit from catcher Miguel Montero, protected that one-run lead.

"He was on top of the situation and trying to maintain my tempo and my pace and make me aware of everything and not rushing everything," said Strop of Montero. "Just try to make pitches and just do it. [He said], 'Just throw a slider -- I'm not going to give you a sign.'

"When he gave me that 'No, no, no,' I felt he was kind of showing me up," added Strop of Ramirez. "I put in my mind, 'I don't have to get you out, I can get the guy at the plate.' That got me a little pumped up, but nothing personal."

Ramirez, speaking through translator and White Sox Spanish language broadcaster Billy Russo, said he was unsure what happened in that situation. But the veteran White Sox shortstop meant no disrespect.

"Probably when he made that side move, I just tried to sign like ... it was just like, 'We're OK, I was close,'" Ramirez said. "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."

As for Strop's emotional strikeout reaction, the White Sox took no umbrage at his celebration. The White Sox players understand the magnitude of the Crosstown Classic, which is being waged with both teams battling for the postseason in mid-August, and knew the importance of the moment.

"You know what, it's part of the game. It really is. I think fan bases like it, I do," said White Sox leadoff man Adam Eaton, whom Strop struck out prior to Saladino in the eighth. "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."

"I don't think there's anything wrong to show how much I care," Strop said. "Sometimes, I don't even think about it. You don't plan it. It's something that pops up right when things happen."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.