Jose Abreu’s ‘speed’ sparks Sox in victory over Tigers

Sore legs don’t keep the veteran from having an impact on the basepaths.

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Jose Abreu high-fives Gavin Sheets after scoring the go-ahead run in the seventh inning Saturday on a single by Andrew Vaughn.

Jose Abreu high-fives Gavin Sheets after scoring the go-ahead run in the seventh inning Saturday on a single by Andrew Vaughn.

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Jose Abreu momentarily grabbed his right hamstring after legging out an infield hit with one out in the seventh inning Saturday night.

But this was no time to seek medical assistance, especially with the White Sox desperately needing more offense.

Abreu, known more for his power, took matters into his own hands with his legs. Abreu advanced from first to second on a deep fly to center by Yasmani Grandal and barely beat the tag from shortstop Javy Baez, who was so confident Abreu was out that he and several of his teammates trotted toward the dugout before a replay review indicated the call stood.

That set up a go-ahead single by Andrew Vaughn — his second in as many games — that enabled the Sox to seize a 6-4 victory and cut their deficit behind the Guardians to 2½ games in the American League Central.

Abreu declined to talk after the game, but his teammates marveled at his resourcefulness and resiliency.

“He’s a leader by example,” said Lucas Giolito, who overcame a rough start to pitch seven innings and earn the win.

“I think it’s motivation for every single guy watching it in the dugout, on-deck circle, to really lock it in. I saw it from the dugout and gave me that feeling, ‘All right, we’re fighting here and let’s go win this game.’ ”

Said manager Tony La Russa: “If his legs feel good, he’s got a little extra gear there he gets to. That’s a heads up, knowing the situation.”

Abreu’s overall play helped Sox (58-56) score more than three runs for only the second time in their last 10 games and for the fourth time in their last 15.

“Pito’s not a very fast guy, but he knows baseball,” Vaughn said.

Giolito (9-6) retired 12 consecutive batters and 13 of the final 14 he faced. That success started shortly after he was upset at a ball four call on rookie Kerry Carpenter with two out and no one on in the second. 

The Tigers loaded the bases before left fielder Eloy Jimenez misplayed a deep fly by Riley Greene that cleared the bases, and Eric Hasse’s RBI double in the third gave the Tigers a 4-3 lead.

“A lot of times when you’re angry, it can turn into frustration,” Giolito said. “That takes you out of it. But I made it a point to channel it into aggression toward executing pitches and started finding a rhythm in the fourth, fifth inning and carried it through seven.”

Reliever Joe Kelly warmed in the fifth, but Giolito pitched more aggressively and efficiently to match his longest outing previously accomplished May 10 against the Guardians. Giolito credited Grandal for changing the game plan to more fastballs after noticing the Tigers’ batters were looking for changeups.

“It shows how strong his mind is,” said La Russa, referring to how Giolito overcame the walk that led to a three-run second. “He gave up one more, and that was it. He pitches through the seventh inning, and that’s impressive.

“What was justice is we scored in the bottom of the seventh, so we don’t have to worry about who gets the win. He got the win.”

Shortstop Leury Garcia, like Abreu, is playing at less than full strength. But Garcia got an accurate read on Josh Harrison’s bloop single and advanced to third with ease before scoring on a sacrifice fly by AJ Pollock in the second.

La Russa indicated Garcia might have tweaked his leg and would check on his availability before Sunday’s series finale.

Pollock added insurance with a homer in the eighth.

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