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Jose Abreu toughs one out for White Sox

“I don’t understand why this is happening,” the Sox’ home-run leader said.

Jose Abreu of the White Sox in the dugout prior to Game 1 of the American League Division Series against Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on October 07, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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HOUSTON — Jose Abreu sucked it up, toughed it out and found the strength to crank out two of the team’s hits on a do-nothing first day of the White Sox’ postseason.

Stricken with flu-like symptoms since last weekend, the reigning MVP and team home-run and RBI leader wasn’t given the go-ahead to play Game 1 of the ALDS against the Astros on Thursday until after he took batting practice. His face was a bit pale, what was seen of it behind a gaiter mask, anyway.

“It’s been difficult; I don’t really understand why this is happening,” Abreu said through translator Billy Russo after the Sox’ 6-1 loss.

Not now, he said to himself. The first legitimate shot in his career advancing deep into the postseason, and the flu (unrelated to COVID) kicks his butt.

“It’s part of life,” he said. “I have to keep going. The fight today, I have to give my best to this team every day because of the commitment I have to this team. It doesn’t matter how I feel. It was important for me and the team for me to play.”

Limited to designated-hitter duty — rookie Gavin Sheets played first base — Abreu gave the Sox a pregame lift just by answering the bell. And then Lance McCullers Jr. knocked them right back down. But Abreu battled through an eight-pitch at-bat in the first before flying out, then singled twice,

Friday is another day, and an early start at 1:07 p.m.

“I just need to get rest,” he said. “As soon as I wake up tomorrow, I will see what I can do tomorrow.

Keuchel is roster omission

Left-hander Dallas Keuchel (9-9, 5.28 ERA) was left off the 26-man ALDS roster that includes 12 pitchers.

Keuchel, the Sox’ highest-paid pitcher at $18 million who is under contract for the same next season, became the Sox’ fifth- or sixth-best starter and was a question mark for the roster in a best-of-five series that requires four starters at most. The 2015 Cy Young winner with the Astros, he was fifth in Cy Young voting last season after going 6-2 with a 1.99 ERA.

Danny Mendick, who played for Triple-A Charlotte at the end of the season, made the team as an extra utility man. Zack Collins is the No. 2 catcher.

Rodon has encouraging bullpen

Carlos Rodon, a possible Game 3 or 4 or starter, had a good bullpen session that “excited” pitching coach Ethan Katz on Thursday.

“He’s feeling better and better,” Katz said.

Rodon’s velocity has been down in recent starts, giving pause to how he will be used in the ALDS.

Katz didn’t address velocity, but said, “His body was moving efficiently. All the shapes of his pitches looked good. It was a really encouraging step for him today for us.”

Rodon allowed one earned run over 14 innings over two starts against the Astros this season.

“We’ll take anything,” Katz said. “We’ll take five outs. We’ll take five innings. Whatever he’s able to do is a huge bonus for us.”

This and that

Leury Garcia played second base, Cesar Hernandez sat out and Adam Engel played right field. La Russa said he chose Engel for defense and Garcia, the second choice to play right field, had to be in the lineup.

† Luis Robert and the Sox received a scare when Robert was hit by a pitch from McCullers on the right wrist/hand area in the second inning. After a delay to make sure he was OK, Robert was thrown out trying to steal second.