Melky Cabrera has turned his season around.
Has he ever.
After going through a rugged start, Cabrera is at the center of the White Sox’ recent offensive explosion that has seemingly come from nowhere. He had three of the Sox’ 17 hits in a 9-2 victory against the Boston Red Sox Wednesday, the team’s seventh in a row.
Cabrera extended his hitting streak to eight games, had his seventh straight multi-hit game — the longest of his career and the longest by a Sox since Magglio Ordonez had eight in 2003 — and had an RBI for the ninth straight game. That, too, is a personal high and the longest for a Sox since Paul Konerko in 2000.
“Don’t touch that guy, he will burn you,” teammate Adam Eaton said. “He’s extremely hot right now. We talk about approach and coming to the ballpark ready to play every day, he’s done that. His tenacity in how he goes about his business, it pays off. He’s a true professional at the plate and goes up with a great approach and all of a sudden it starts going his way. Shows how good of a hitter he is.”
A torrid July has pushed Cabrera’s numbers — .284/.322/.396 slash line with a .718 OPS — to be more in line with his career numbers. He had 12 extra-base hits in April, May and June combined but has rebounded to collect 18 in July (13 doubles, one triple, four homers). In July, Cabrera has driven in 22 runs and owns a .322/.400/.600 slash line with a 1.060 OPS.
“I haven’t changed anything,” he said through a translator Wednesday night.Maybe not. He did have his share of hard-hit balls that went for outs in the early going but there was no explanation for the lack of pop. Whatever Cabrera was dealing with at the plate was made worse by the Sox’ won-loss record. The losses weren’t sitting well with the 30-year-old veteran.Cabrera’s competitiveness was evident the day the Sox introduced him along with David Robertson and Jeff Samardzija at a winter press conference at U.S. Cellular Field. The money (three years, $42 million) usually trumps everything else for a free agent, but Cabrera also was lured to the South Side because he saw a team being built to win. When it wasn’t happening as losses mounted during the first months of the season, Cabrera’s angry face in the clubhouse spoke volumes about his desire to win.But he is also a good-natured leader who keeps things loose. Other players look up to him and enjoy his demeanor.“I like to win,” Cabrera said. “In the bad moments … I don’t even think about the bad moments. I just keep working hard and keep trying to push the guys in the right direction. And that’s it. I think right now we are playing very good and everybody is loose here and enjoying the play and that’s it. That’s important for us. I think that it’s the key in this moment.”Cabrera also offered a tip of the cap to manager Robin Ventura.“The manager has given us the confidence to play every day, to play every day hard, to play every day loose,” he said.Cabrera was acquired to bat second in Ventura’s lineup, which has been tinkered around with Jose Abreu batting second for a while and recently Tyler Saladino. Cabrera has batted fourth recently.“He’s hitting everything hard,” Ventura said. “Anything in the zone he’s taking pretty good hacks at and he’s always in the middle of everything we’re doing.”