Abreu reaching select company with historic production

HOUSTON — Jose Abreu is closing in on 100 RBI, never a small feat and yet an annual occurrence for the White Sox first baseman. The significance of it doesn’t seem to be lost on him.

“Yes,’’ he said about that noteworthy number before the Sox’ 4-3 loss to the 93-58 Astros on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park. “But I’m not overthinking it because I know my responsibility here is just to help this team win games and help the young guys in this process. I know about it, but it’s not my priority right now.’’

It’s not just the 100 figure by itself, but everything packaged with it that warrants a bow when sizing up Abreu’s four seasons in the majors, all with the Sox. He hit 30 homers for the third time, and while he was held without one in an 0-for-4 game, he will all but certainly reach 100 RBI for the fourth time.

Among the many milestones putting Abreu in Hall of Fame company, he’s close to becoming the third player to begin his career with four seasons of 25-plus homers and 100 RBI, joining Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols, and he’ll likely be the fifth to drive in 100 runs in his first four-plus seasons, joining Al Simmons, Ted Williams, DiMaggio and Pujols.

Yoan Moncada of the White Sox hits a two-run home run in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on September 20, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Getty Images)

Abreu is batting .304 with 31 homers and 98 RBI and leading the American League in total bases. He would be the fourth Sox player to lead the AL in total bases, joining Albert Belle (399 in 1998), Minnie Minoso (304 in 1954) and Shoeless Joe Jackson (331 in 1912, 293 in 1916).

Abreu’s consistency through his first four years is “very important and special for me,’’ he said.

It’s hard to overlook Abreu’s effect on fellow Cuban Yoan Moncada’s transition to the majors, a progression that has taken positive steps in September, including Moncada’s seventh homer on a slider from Brad Peacock in the fourth inning. It was Moncada’s third homer in six games on a road trip that has seen him hit .415 to raise his average to .241.

“For us as younger players, to see Abreu, the way he prepares himself and handles himself on and off the field, it’s motivation for us to follow his steps,’’ Moncada, 22, said after the game. “For him to do what he’s doing at this level makes you feel proud to be playing with him. You see him as an idol.’’

Moncada’s improved handling of offspeed pitches has played a role in his recent surge, which coincided with Abreu’s suggestion that he switch to a lighter bat. Abreu has gone lighter in the second half of the season, and believing it could work for Moncada, ordered him new bats.

“These new bats have better balance with the weight and are a little shorter than the other ones,’’ Abreu said. “I just did it thinking of him taking advantage of his power, his hands and to feel more freedom in his swing.

“I’m happy for him because I knew he had the talent. I never had a doubt. It was just a matter of him getting to know this process and the league and using the proper tools to take advantage. We’re just seeing what he’s capable of. It’s a good sign for him building for next season.’’

Moncada said he’s learning to make adjustments at the plate. His homer was the only hit for the Sox (60-91) through seven innings, and James Shields allowed three runs in 5‰ innings. In a sloppy Astros seventh, center fielder Adam Engel and shortstop Tim Anderson couldn’t glove tough but doable chances, and catcher Omar Narvaez made a two-base throwing error through Abreu, producing the Astros’ fourth run.

Anderson extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an infield single off Luke Gregerson in the eighth inning. He stole second and scored on Yolmer Sanchez’s double to make it 4-3.

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

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