To be the best, you watch the best, Jose Abreu says. So there he was on at least two occasions during the White Sox series at Detroit last week, watching Miguel Cabrera taking batting practice.
Seated alone at the end of the visitors dugout, Abreu was all eyes.
“It’s pretty basic,’’ Abreu said through translator Billy Russo. “When you know someone is the greatest at what he does, you watch him just to see what you can pick up from him.’’
Abreu was a fan of Cabrera when he was in Cuba and he talks to the Tigers star about hitting whenever he can.
“No disrespect to anyone, but for me he is the best hitter in all of baseball right now,’’ Abreu said. “The way he makes adjustments during an at-bat. His mindset during an at-bat, he looks like he’s always ahead of the pitcher, he’s always ahead of the game. That’s something no one else can do as well as him.
“It’s like he’s playing at this level against AAA. It’s so easy for him.’’
After a poor first half, Abreu is making it look easy as well. He continued on his current extended tear with three singles and a sacrifice fly in the White Sox’ 7-4 victory Wednesday afternoon over Cabrera’s Tigers, a win that gave the Sox a series victory over a postseason contender which needs the wins more than the Sox (67-72).
Abreu has now reached base in 33 of his last 34 games, batting .381 with 12 home runs, six doubles, eight walks, three hit-by-pitches and 32 RBI during that stretch. He singled against Shane Greene leading off the eighth inning and scored the tying run from first on Justin Morneau’s double to the right-center field gap. The Sox would add three more runs in the inning on RBI singles by Avisail Garcia, Tyler Saladino and Adam Eaton.
David Robertson pitched the ninth, getting the three outs in order after putting the tying run at the plate with a leadoff walk to J.D. Martinez and single by Justin Upton. Robertson (35th save) struck out two, including pinch hitter Tyler Collins to end the game for the second day in a row.
Abreu said the Sox know they are all but out of the playoff race, but he and his teammates continue to battle.
“We don’t have the “E” of elimination anywhere in our name,’’ he said. “I know that the situation for us is very complicated, very hard. But our desire every single day is to win games no matter who the opponent is.’’
The Sox fought back from a 3-1 deficit after Justin Upton hit his second three-run homer of the series, against left-hander Jose Quintana, in the second. Quintana then strung together four scoreless innings before allowing the go-ahead run in the seventh on Jose Iglesias’ RBI ground-rule double on Quintana’s 116th pitch.
In the eighth, Abreu, now batting .298 with 21 homers and 88 RBI, started the four-run burst that got the lead back and more.
“He has the ability to carry you,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s swinging it good and he’s patient as well. That’s the biggest thing, he’s not swinging at everything. He’s willing to take a walk, and that changes the at-bat for the pitcher.’’
Abreu said he likes to watch Cabrera’s sequences during BP to see how the two-time MVP and 11-time All-Star “uses his hands and how he controls his body. I can incorporate subtle things to my approach.’’
The Sox and Tigers are done with each other for 2016, so Abreu’s intelligence gathering – and chats with Cabrera – are done till next year.
“We always talk about hitting,’’ Abreu said. “I take extra motivation every time we play the Tigers [because of Cabrera]. It’s good to talk with him about offense.’’