CHICAGO -- Pitching to Jose Abreu has been a difficult chore all season. Now add pitching around Abreu to the list of dangers when facing the rookie slugger.
Abreu had a pair of RBI singles for the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, including the go-ahead RBI hit to center field in the seventh inning when the Cleveland Indians clearly looked to be avoiding the strike zone. Teams seem to have run out of options when it comes to containing a .312 hitter with 96 RBIs, all before the start of September.
Abreu had a nearly identical RBI on a single up the middle in the third inning, driving in both runs off Indians starter Corey Kluber.
“He didn't throw too much good stuff but I wanted to bring the guy in from third base so I was aggressive as I could be,” Abreu said through an interpreter about his seventh-inning RBI that put the White Sox ahead for good in their 3-2 victory that snapped a seven-game losing streak. “He left a pitch there and I was able to connect and get the ball through the middle.”
In the seventh inning, the White Sox had Eaton on third base and Alexei Ramirez on first with one out in a tie game. Kluber didn’t want much to do with Abreu in that situation, but still got burned on a pitch that appeared to be off the plate.
“Well I think second and third you are probably questioning that, but first and third [is different] I think, especially the way Kluber has been pitching,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He had a good at-bat early in the game and then he had one where Kluber really threw some tough pitches to him. His ball moves all over the place.”
Add Wednesday’s game to the impressive moments that Abreu has been able to deliver all season. He is now hitting .500 (12-for-24) during a seven-game hitting streak and is batting .422 while collecting a hit in 11 of his past 12 games.
“He’s amazing, isn’t he?” Eaton said. “Great player, rises to the occasion like he has all year. What does he have 96 RBI? It’s unreal. He’s a great player and he makes it easier on me. If I can get on base, hopefully I’ll score a run. Hopefully we’ll continue the trend.”
As Abreu clearly heads toward an American League rookie of the year award, he has managed to stay productive even as his power game as waned. He has just two home runs since the start of August, but his slugging percentage continues to lead baseball at .602.
“He has the power there, but I think you are always going to have to do the other stuff,” Ventura said. “Power will always be there for him because he’s that strong. If the only thing he did was hit homers, he wouldn’t be in the situation he is in. He’s driving in a lot of tough runs for us, not only with the home runs but with base hits in big situations.”
Even with all the personal success it has always been about the team for Abreu, and after his clutch night Wednesday it wasn’t any different.
“I'm very happy because we just came out of a bad stretch there,” he said. “I was concentrating since yesterday on this pitcher because I knew he was going be tough. I dedicated a lot of time to preparing against him and was glad we got that win today.”
Abreu admitted that he is no stranger to long losing streaks, going on some during his 10 years of playing professionally in Cuba.
“Many times seven games and at one point 11,” he said. “But as tough as the moment is, we're still going to face the adversity. The easy times, everybody wants them. The tough times really let you know who you are as a player and a team.”
His ability to be both a power hitter and somebody who can collect base hits to all fields should help the White Sox avoid long losing streaks in the future, especially if the team revamps the pitching staff like it hopes to this offseason.
“My dad always said most good hitters are line drive hitters, they just happen to go out; they hit them really hard they happen to go out and I think Jose is one of those,” Eaton said. “He sprays the ball all over the field. He reminds me of when I played with Paul Goldschmidt [in Arizona]. He’s very disciplined at the plate, knows what he’s doing, can hit to all fields with power and I’m lucky to be his teammate.”