CHICAGO -- Nothing gets you out of the doghouse faster than a two-run homer one at-bat after raising some eyebrows.
After Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura chided Jose Abreu late Tuesday night for not running on a dropped third strike, the rookie sensation clubbed a home run on his first at-bat Wednesday against the San Francisco Giants. The White Sox went on to a 7-6 victory.
Abreu’s first home run in a week made him the third-fastest player to reach 20 home runs in major league history. Only Wally Berger (1930) and Mark McGwire (1986-87) got there quicker.
“He wasn’t going to spend a whole lot of time [thinking] about it,” Ventura said. “That’s part of the game we can take care of real easy.”
Before the game, Abreu was contrite, vowing to never let his oversight happen again. After striking out in the seventh inning Tuesday night, Abreu walked to the dugout instead of running to first base when the third strike got away.
“Those are things that I forget, I leave behind,” Abreu said through an interpreter after the game. “That just happened yesterday. I learned from it and I keep going. Those are the things that happen. Those are [challenges] in life. They happen, things like that happen, and you just found it in front of you, and you've just got to learn from it and keep going.”
One of Abreu’s better traits has been the ability to live in the present. He doesn’t seem to carry his issues from game to game, at-bat to at-bat or even pitch to pitch. He recovers and moves on, which seems to be key in avoiding prolonged slumps.
Abreu’s strength has been attacking pitches away, but on his home run Wednesday he was able to get his hands inside of a Tim Hudson offering and pulled it into the White Sox's bullpen in left field. It didn’t hurt that the pitch was a changeup.
When Abreu talks about his ability to cover so much of the plate, he does so matter-of-factly.
“No, I mean really that’s just things that happen,” he said. “I do my job every day, get ready to play. I prepare just as the pitchers are preparing. Scouting reports are what they are, but you still have to go out there and get it done. I just thank God that I have been able to do what I've done.”
Abreu’s teammates remained transfixed by his ability to put on an impressive show. Chris Sale was the benefactor of the offense Wednesday, as the Abreu home run staked him to an early lead.
“You never know what you are going to get, whether it’s a 3-for-4 night with two singles and a double or homers, or how far they are going to go, things like that,” Sale said. “It’s fun to watch him learn as quickly as he has and really just dominate the game in his first year.”
Of all the great power hitters in the game, Abreu’s 20 home runs in 58 games put him in elite company. Yet the 27-year-old first baseman was still trying to downplay the accomplishment.
“First of all, thank God for me getting to this,” he said. “I wasn't aware of this happening, but it's a good thing. I welcome it and I want to continue to help the team win. That's what it's all about right now.”
At some point down the road Abreu could be closing in on McGwire’s rookie record of 49 home runs, but you get the sense it still might not register on his personal accomplishment meter.
“I never thought of any record breaking or anything like that,” Abreu said. “I was just concentrating on coming in and doing my job daily. And I'm fortunate enough that things have happened and once again I've just got to thank God for that. I've continued to do the things to help the White Sox win.”