Now you’re talking: Jose Abreu’s bat shows signs of life
Abreu doubled in two runs in the White Sox’ 3-0 victory over the Royals in the first game of their split doubleheader. Manager Tony La Russa rested him for Game 2, a 2-1 loss.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — First baseman Jose Abreu’s missing bat in the middle of the White Sox’ lineup has been a problem. Maybe that’s what prompted him to have a talk with it Tuesday morning.
“See the ball, hit the ball,” Abreu playfully said in English, holding two bats up at his locker before the Sox’ split doubleheader against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Abreu also pleaded with his bats to give him two hits, which he got in a 3-0 victory over the Royals in Game 1. Abreu singled, lined out to right field and doubled home the Sox’ second and third runs against Jonathan Heasley. That came a day after he walked twice and singled in a 5-3 victory. Abreu also walked.
It seemed to be a good sign for the Sox. Abreu, 35, entered the series batting .200/.284/.312 with four home runs. The Sox have banked on him for 30 homers and 100 RBI since his rookie season in 2014, and while his scuffling isn’t the only reason why they ranked 26th among 30 teams in runs, 28th in on-base percentage, 22nd in slugging and last in walks, having him and Yasmani Grandal waiting to get untracked in the heart of a lineup missing Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez for sizable chunks of the season plays big.
“Looking more like himself, isn’t he?” said manager Tony La Russa, who after planning to have Abreu be the designated hitter in Game 2 gave him a break instead, inserting Luis Robert into the DH spot. “He has the pompons for the second game. He’s resting.”
La Russa said Abreu, who almost always resists time off, “put a lot into that game” and that the decision was “mutual.”
“He’s cheering in the dugout; he worked hard,” said La Russa, who also rested shortstop Tim Anderson in Game 2, a 2-1 loss.
And he’s keeping teammates loose on an important trip that continues through Kansas City on Thursday and into the weekend against the Yankees. Giving Robert a hard time after Robert’s homer beat the Royals on Monday, Abreu let out a primal scream and had his teammates in stitches. On Tuesday morning, he had them laughing some more. Maybe he was sensing that bat was coming around.
“He was on one pregame,” said Dylan Cease, who pitched 5‰ scoreless innings with nine strikeouts to improve to 4-1. “It was pretty awesome.”
During the game, Abreu sprinted full speed across the infield to the dugout after making an inning-ending putout, beating everyone else there. All in good fun.
“He’s loose,” Cease said. “He brings not only intangibles but a middle-of-the-lineup bat that always has good at-bats, RBI, moving guys over. As professional as it comes.
“He’s the ultimate grinder and competitor. He could severely sprain his ankle, and he’ll want to be taped up and out there limping, if he can. To have someone with that kind of fighting spirit, I think it just sets a good tone for everybody.”
It was Cease who set the tone on the mound. At 94 pitches, Cease was lifted after striking out MJ Melendez for the second out of the sixth. Bennett Sousa struck out pinch hitter Michael Taylor with a runner on second to end the inning.
Joe Kelly loaded the bases with no outs, then struck out Carlos Santana and Ryan O’Hearn and got Hunter Dozier on a soft pop-up in the seventh. Jose Ruiz pitched a scoreless eighth and Liam Hendriks the ninth for his 11th save.
The struggling Royals were 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and struck out 14 times. And the Sox were over the .500 mark again, and if Abreu gets going, maybe they’ll stay.
“Right now we’ve got good morale,” Cease said.
“We’re grinding. We’re still trying to do some damage. I think we’re feeling good right now.”