CLEVELAND — It wasn’t exactly Kirk Gibson playing the hero on one leg in the World Series, but there was something to be said for Jose Abreu knowing his place and refusing to take a day off.
After getting drilled by Andrew Miller, whose pitch came precariously close to his left kneecap, and needing to be helped off the field by manager Rick Renteria and trainer Herm Schneider, Abreu told Renteria he was playing Saturday.
And he was back at first base helping the White Sox put the brakes on their worst tailspin of the season.
Abreu said he was sore but had to play.
“The guys like me that have a second responsibility on our shoulders [as leaders], we just [have] to step up,’’ Abreu said.
“You just have to find a way to grind.’’
The Sox had lost three in a row and eight of their last nine and were 1-6 on the road trip with the worst record in the American League. It was no time to rest.
“I have to show up for the guys and for my team,” Abreu said.
Abreu brought his bat, too, with two hard-hit singles and a double in his first three at-bats.
His first single against struggling Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin (3-8, 5.73 ERA) came in the Sox’ three-run first that set the table for their 5-3 victory.
Matt Davidson drove in the other two in the first with a bases-loaded single, and Melky Cabrera drove in a run with a single in the second. Kevan Smith knocked in the Sox’ fifth run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
The Sox (26-34) had 11 hits in the first five innings but were denied scoring more than four runs because of five outs on the bases, including Abreu at second base, Todd Frazier and Avisail Garcia at third and Cabrera at home. In the eighth, Yolmer Sanchez was doubled off third on the Sox’ latest failed squeeze-bunt attempt, this one popped foul by Leury Garcia.
“It was super-aggressive but not necessarily good,’’ Renteria said of the baserunning. “Maybe a little reckless.’’
Left-hander David Holmberg (1-0), making his third start after eight relief appearances, got his first win with the Sox by going more than four innings for the first time. He gave up a two-run homer to Edwin Encarnacion and left with only a 4-2 lead after five innings even though the Sox were outhitting the Indians 11-3.
“It’s kind of cool,’’ Holmberg said. “It’s been a long time since I got drafted [in the second round in 2009 before being traded and brought back] by this organization.’’
Renteria used three pitchers in the sixth, including left-hander Dan Jennings, who gave up a home run to Carlos Santana that cut the advantage to 4-3. Right-hander Anthony Swarzak gave up a harmless double by Encarnacion in the sixth and pitched a scoreless seventh.
Instead of going to Tommy Kahnle in the eighth, Renteria went to closer David Robertson for a two-inning save, his 10th. Robertson’s reverse splits matched up better with the Indians’ lefties, and he finished with four strikeouts in two scoreless innings.
“We wanted to put our best guy out there to kind of see if we could truly stop it,’’ Renteria said of giving Robertson a two-inning opportunity. “We had Kahnle backing him up.’’
Robertson might not have been needed at all had the Sox not run into so many outs.
“Guys got thrown out that very easily could have not been thrown out, and we could have had more runs on the board,’’ Robertson said.
Holmberg did not get a beer shower for his first win with the Sox. That went to right-hander Mike Pelfrey, who celebrated 10 years in the majors Saturday.
“Ten years in the show, that’s hard to do,” Robertson said. “You don’t see many guys get there. I’m proud of him. It’s awesome.”
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