DETROIT — Todd Steverson knows Jose Abreu’s swing as well as anyone. The hitting coach’s first year with the White Sox coincided with Abreu’s first in the majors, so he has seen almost every game swing, not to mention cage work and batting practice by the first baseman.
So Steverson knows the look.
“You guys can’t tell. I’ve been around him long enough, I can tell,’’ Steverson said Saturday. “There’s a look that he has when you’re like, ‘Uh oh, he’s locked in.’ You can’t -explain the look, you just know.’’
Steverson has seen it a lot since early May. Abreu is hitting .322 with 10 homers, 24 RBI and a .968 OPS over his last 36 games.
“He has that hitter’s swagger,’’ Steverson said. “When you’re feeling it, you get in the box different, you set up different, you take pitches different. It basically boils down to how you’re seeing it. When you’re seeing the ball good, it doesn’t matter. You get in the box and you’re so confident you can hit or take whatever you want.’’
When Abreu is off, he’s chasing pitches out of the zone, Steverson said.
“Getting himself out before two strikes on bad pitches,’’ Steverson said. “When he’s on, he’ll still put it in play.’’
On a day when Jordan Zimmermann (5-4, 5.98 ERA) held the Sox to a run and seven hits in six innings in a 10-1 Tigers victory, Abreu, the designated hitter, singled sharply, wrapped a one-hop smash to shortstop for a double play and hooked a deep drive left of the foul pole before striking out for the first time in the series.
The Sox (24-30) have lost four in a row and were never really in this one, falling behind 2-0 in the second and 6-0 in the fourth as the Tigers (26-28) poked three homers against right-hander Miguel Gonzalez. All the Sox could muster was a run in the sixth on Todd Frazier’s RBI double. That inning began with Abreu’s single, one of nine hits (eight singles) for the Sox. Catcher Omar Narvaez had three singles.
At a season-low six games under .500, the Sox could fall deeper with the Tigers’ Justin -Verlander opposing David Holmberg and gunning for a series sweep Sunday. The road trip continues against the Rays and Indians, so it won’t get easier.
“In any season, you are going to pass through bad stretches like this one,’’ Abreu said through an interpreter. “It’s important to keep them short and take advantage of the good ones. We’re just trying to figure out how to stop this moment and start a new, better one.
“Our mindset and approach for every game is the same. We have to stay united and keep working hard. That’s the only way you can pass through these moments.”
Abreu has passed through a bad moment. He was batting .157 on April 15 and didn’t hit his first homer until April 29. He’s no fan of cold weather and is still adjusting to it, having come from Cuba late in 2013, so perhaps that was a factor. For what it’s worth, not one of his 10 homers have been hit at home,
His swing is one that should play anywhere, though.
“Consistent and adjustable,’’ Steverson said. “You’ve seen him hit this pitch [up and away], this pitch [down and in], that pitch [middle of the plate]. It’s an adjustable swing, it’s not just one spot, which makes it tough for pitchers to do something to him.
“A pitcher can’t say, ‘He’s good here, let’s elevate on him.’ I’ve seen him take elevated balls and shoot them into right. I’ve seen him take inside balls and shoot them to second, inside balls and pull them. Down and away balls, hit them to left center. It’s an adjustable swing.’’
The Sox are going to need it to help them stay afloat.
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