MINNEAPOLIS – These last five weeks have been as good as it gets for Jose Abreu.
For the White Sox, who defeated the Minnesota Twins 13-11 in 12 innings Sunday, there’s no other way to put it – the surge is coming too late. Even with the victory, they’re once again playing games in September which – as has been their custom for almost every season since they won the World Series 11 years ago – are not meaningful aside from individual accomplishments and laying groundwork for next year.
But this stretch has had purpose for Abreu.
Abreu has been fixed, his confidence has returned and the Sox can plan accordingly for 2017 expecting him to be a 30 homer, 100-RBI producer.
“He’s swinging it like how you really expect it from him,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s really free and easy right now. Even the home runs are more indicative of him. He’s feeling pretty good about being in the middle of our lineup driving in runs.’’
Abreu continued his tear by driving in a career high seven runs with two three-run homers sandwiched around an RBI single. He has soared up the Sox RBI ladder since the beginning of August, and he finished the Sox’ disappointing 2-5 road trip through Detroit and Minnesota having caught Todd Frazier with the team lead in RBI with 86.
On the road trip, Abreu hit for a .412/.412/.794 slash line with four homers and 13 RBI. He is batting .370 with 11 homers and 30 RBI in his past 31 games. He had 11 homers going into August.
Abreu’s homer in the first inning gave the Sox a 3-0 lead against left-hander Andrew Albers. His second homer, off Taylor Rogers in the seventh, got the Sox within 9-8. The Twins got one back on Miguel Sano’s home run against Matt Albers in the bottom of the seventh, and the Sox back to within one on Adam Eaton’s RBI groundout in the eighth.
Avisail Garcia’s two-run single against Brandon Kintzler in the ninth pushed across the tying and go-ahead runs but David Robertston suffered his seventh blown save in the bottom of the inning, walking the leadoff hitter Sano and giving up an RBI double to Kurt Suzuki that scored pinch runner Logan Schafer.
Tim Anderson’s two-run double against Read in the 12th put the Sox in front by a pair.
Juan Minaya (1-0), a September call-up on Thursday, earned his first major league win by pitching a scoreless 11th. When he walked the first two batters in the 12th, Ventura called on Tommy Kahnle who picked up his first save and third of his career save, the game ending after four hours, 45 minutes on Eddie Rosario’s sharp grounder that caromed off Kahnle to third baseman Frazier with the bases loaded.
Byron Buxton belted his first grand slam, and Brian Dozier, Miguel Sano and John Ryan Murphy also hit homers for the Twins, who cracked 11 homers in the four-game series split by the AL Central’s two worst teams.
“It was a very stressful game and it was good one to win,’’ Abreu said, who wouldn’t go so far to say this is the best stretch of his career.
“I would say this is my best moment of this season,’’ he said through translator Billy Russo.
“It’s encouraging, absolutely,” Ventura said. “Even for his own sake, that he knows it’s in there and it can come out of it. It’s one thing for a guy to go through something like that and not find it before the end of the season, and you have thoughts going into the next season, some doubts that other people might put on you. It’s important for him to have that. Now his confidence level is at a different level.’’