For the third consecutive season, Jose Abreu plans to watch the playoffs from home.
Sure, it probably will sting to watch other players contend for a championship. It won’t feel good to reflect on the White Sox’s latest subpar season as Abreu stares at a TV screen showing teams that fulfilled their potential.
Still, Abreu will watch.
“I’m a baseball fan,” Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo.
On Monday, Abreu gave a smattering of fellow fans something to enjoy. He finished 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored as the Sox rolled to a 7-1 win over the Rays.
James Shields pitched six strong innings to earn his first victory since July 26 against the Cubs. The 34-year-old limited the Rays to one run on seven hits. He walked two and struck out six.
“I’m just trying to finish the season strong right now,” said Shields, who was 0-6 in his previous 10 starts. “Body feels good, arm feels good, so hopefully I can get another win Saturday to end my season and move into next year.”
Justin Morneau and Carlos Sanchez each added two-run home runs as the Sox collected their 75th win. Melky Cabrera notched his 40th double for the first time since 2011.
Abreu, 29, does not know what the Sox will look like when they convene at Camelback Ranch next spring. He would rather field ground balls than field questions about rumors of a possible rebuild on the South Side.
A rebuild almost certainly would increase Abreu’s streak of 452 games and counting without a playoff appearance.
“I can’t really talk about it because it’s none of my business,” Abreu said. “I don’t have a decision about it. The only thing I can control is to play hard, to try to finish this season strong.
“That’s a decision that the team has to make. I hope the decision that they make is the best for the team.”
In the meantime, Abreu is chasing as many victories as possible in the season’s final week. The way he views it, if he focuses on helping the Sox win, his individual statistics will follow.
Abreu increased his batting average to .299 and notched his 98th RBI with Monday’s performance. A.300 season with 100 RBIs is well within reach.
Such possibilities seemed remote as Abreu staggered toward the All-Star break two-and-a-half months ago. However, he kept working with assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks to improve his approach. The work paid off as Abreu has hit .360 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs in his past 51 games.
The midseason turnaround gives Abreu confidence heading toward 2017.
“You have to do a lot of work during the offseason to keep that momentum,” Abreu said.
Can momentum actually jump from season to season?
Yes and no, Robin Ventura said.
“It’s going to start from zero,” Ventura said. “The mechanics of it, you’re going to have to start back over. But your mindset – making somewhat of a comeback or a surge in the second half when you didn’t feel it mechanically, which hadn’t happened to him here – I think that’s the biggest thing. You’ve seen him rebound, you’ve seen him make adjustments while he’s up here during the year, and that’s new for him.”
Abreu knows the excitement that is bubbling 8 miles north of U.S. Cellular Field. When the Cubs open the playoffs, he will be watching.
After all, he’s a baseball fan.
“They have a very good team, and I wish them the best,” Abreu said. “They have the kind of players, the kind of group that can accomplish good things.”