On his 26th home run of the season, tying him for the major league lead, Abreu gave the White Sox an early lead in Game 1 of a doubleheader Tuesday, only to see it slip away in an 8-4 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels.
In a season full of inconsistencies, Abreu has been the White Sox’s most consistent performer, and with a hit in Game 2 he extended his hitting streak to 16 games. But not even one of the best rookie seasons in major league history has been good enough to get the team over .500 through three months of the season.
The White Sox entered the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader with a 39-45 record. And even though his home run couldn’t lead to a victory in the opener, the White Sox are still 14-8 in games when he goes deep. (He has four multihomer games this year).
One man can’t do everything, though.
“It’s not leaning on him, he’s going to do that anyway,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You get to a point where he’s the only guy. Come back [in the second game] with better at-bats and get it done.”
The Angels know what they are up against with Abreu, and when the teams met in Southern California in early June, they held the White Sox slugger to one hit in 13 trips to the plate. But in one at-bat of the current series, Abreu tagged them with a three-run home run off of arguably the Angels’ best pitcher right now, Garrett Richards.
“We saw him in the spring, and there was no doubt in the spring the talent was real, the bat speed's there, the strength,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “And he's obviously turned it into a terrific first half, certainly with the power numbers and the production numbers. He's a force. There's no doubt about it.”
“Well, I think his power plays in the Grand Canyon,” Scioscia said. “He's got pretty good power.”
That kind of power can only get you so far, though. No major leaguer has ever hit 26 home runs in their first 70 games as Abreu has, but a winning club needs more pitching, defense and co-conspirators on offense.
It hasn’t seemed to discourage him, though, and Abreu might only be getting better.
“I think he’s starting to understand when people are going to pitch to him and when they’re going to pitch around him,” Ventura said. “I think early on he was swinging a lot, being very aggressive on situations where guys were going to pitch around him no matter who was batting behind him.
“He’s getting a lot better at just understanding that -– when to be aggressive, when not to. I think that’s been the learning curve for him, understanding that.”