It was not a night for style points. But the White Sox are in first place again. And it’s September.
Jose Abreu bolstered his MVP credentials with a two-out, two-run double in the sixth inning that extended his hitting streak to 18 games and provided a much-needed three-run cushion en route to a 7-4 victory over the Royals on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium. But almost everything else about this one was unartful.
The Sox scored their first four runs on a sacrifice fly, an infield single, a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch. Starter Dane Dunning, who pitched five shutout innings against the Royals on Sunday, gutted through 4 2/3 innings — allowing three runs on five hits and four walks — and somehow left with the lead.
The Sox won without hitting a home run for only the fourth time this season. And closer Alex Colome needed 40 pitches — the most he’s thrown in a relief appearance in six years — to labor his way to a four-out save. He faced the tying run with two outs in the ninth before retiring pinch-hitter Ryan McBroom — who already has hit three pinch-hit home runs this season, including a game-tying homer off Zach Burdi last Saturday — on a catcher-to-first ground out to end it.
In fact, the last time Colome threw more than 40 pitches in a game — in 2015 as a starter with the Rays — the Royals were trying to avoid overlooking the Sox. Now it’s the other way around. That’s progress.
“You take no one for granted no matter who you’re playing,” manager Ricky Renteria said when asked his biggest impression of the hard-fought victory. “All these guys are professionals on both sides of the field and they’re trying to do their best and their grinding games out, grinding at-bats out. They kept grinding. They keep pushing us. They keep getting after it. We were fortunate enough to be able to get out of it today.”
The victory combined with the Indians’ loss to the Brewers moved the Sox (24-15) back into first place in the AL Central by a half game over the Indians (23-15) and Twins (24-16), with 21 games to play. The Sox are now 4-5 when they don’t hit a home run (20-10 when they do). But they still had 14 hits, though 12 of them were singles.
“We have a really good offensive team, so we can score runs without homers. And with homers,” said Eloy Jimenez, who went 3-for-4 and had the Sox’ other extra base hit — a seventh-inning double that scored Luis Robert to make it 7-3. “We showed what we can do and we just keep grinding, working hard and playing hard.”
Abreu again had arguably the biggest hit of the game. With the Sox leading 4-3 in the sixth inning, Tim Anderson singled with two outs and nobody on. Yoan Moncada walked in a nine-pitch at-bat and Abreu pulled a low-and-away curveball from Jesse Hahn into the gap in left-center for a two-run double that gave the Sox a 6-3 lead. It gave Abreu the AL lead in RBIs with 38 — two ahead of the. Angels’ Mike Trout.
It was similar to Thursday night’s 11-4 victory over the Royals when Abreu hit an RBI single in the seventh inning to give the White Sox a 7-4 lead and ignite a five-run inning.
“What can I say? Abreu is one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen,” Jimenez said. “He’s a super clutch hitter. Every time he’s at the plate, I learn something. He tries to show us something to learn every night, every at-bat. It’s really good to see him produce those runs for us.”
Colome survived his adventure, but still bears watching after throwing 40 pitches. It was his eighth save in nine save opportunities. Renteria had a reliever warming and might have pulled Colome if he did not get McBroom out.
“We were certainly considering the number of pitches he’s thrown,” Renteria said. “That’s the most pitches he’s thrown in a while from what I understand. He came off the mound and said, ‘I’m good.’ So he wasn’t flustered by it.
Then again what reliever doesn’t feel good after getting the last out?
“The day after is usually the day when you feel something,” Renteria said, “especially when you’re a closer and you’re used to minimizing the number of pitches you make. But we’ll know that [Saturday].”