The play developed in front of him and as soon as Jose Abreu saw the ball get past both outfielders he smiled and picked up the pace.
The sore ankle wasn’t going to bother him. Neither was the lack of sleep from the night before worrying about his family’s safety during Hurricane Irma. Why should the extra 90 feet to third base be any different?
The White Sox slugger saw his opportunity on Saturday night and sped into third base to complete the sixth cycle in franchise history. Abreu finished 4-for-5 with three RBIs as the White Sox pounded Jeff Samardzija and the San Francisco Giants 13-1 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Abreu homered in the first inning, doubled in the third, singled in the seventh and then tripled in the eighth as he became the first White Sox player since Jose Valentin to complete a cycle on April 27, 2000.
“I knew he wasn’t going to stop,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “I knew he was going to give it an effort. Again, those things don’t happen very often, but a big man like that, when it happens for something like that to finish it off with a triple, it’s pretty exciting.”
The feat clearly isn’t impossible. The triple was Abreu’s fifth of the season and 11th of his career. But when you take into account that Abreu’s foot speed isn’t his best attribute — he’s listed as 6-foot-3, 255-pounds — the odds were highly improbable given he needed a three-bagger to get there.
Those chances would seem to have been reduced even further when Abreu fouled an 0-1 fastball from right-hander Roberto Gomez off his left foot, which brought Renteria and trainer Herm Schneider out of the dugout. Renteria said he tried to take the bat from Abreu’s hand, but the slugger wouldn’t let go. After a brief pause, Abreu stepped back in to the box and hit a steam roller to the fence in right-center field on a 95-mph fastball.
Abreu said he had no intention of slowing down once he saw where the ball was headed.
“I was looking for it,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “Even though the ball went to the alley and the fence, if the other guy could cut the ball before I was going to go for it.”
Neither Giants center fielder Denard Span nor right fielder Hunter Pence could get there. The ball split the outfielders and rolled to the wall. At that point, Abreu turned up the speed. Though he appeared to nearly lose his balance between second and third, Abreu managed to stay upright and slid into third base ahead of the throw.
According to MLB Statcast, Abreu covered the trip from home plate to third base in 11.76 seconds, his fastest triple. He covered the ground at a rate of 27.9 feet per second, which is up from his average of 26.9 feet.
“Avi told me seconds before to hit the ball to the alley,” Abreu said. “I hit the ball to the alley and I was just thinking of the triple.”
It was a nice moment after a long night for Abreu, who didn’t sleep after 3 a.m. because he was worried about his family’s safety as Irma rolled through his hometown of Mal Tiempo. Abreu isn’t likely to sleep much Saturday night either as his wife and parents are in Miami, which is expected to feel plenty of the effects of the hurricane.
Abreu wasn’t the only big bat for the White Sox on Saturday. They hit six home runs, including four off Samardzija, who made his first start here since he pitched for the White Sox in 2015. Tim Anderson fell a double shy of the cycle as did Yolmer Sanchez. Yoan Moncada, Nicky Delmonico and Avisail Garcia also homered for the White Sox.
The outpouring gave James Shields plenty of support for his best effort of the season. The right-hander allowed a run and two hits over seven innings only five days after he took a comebacker off his knee.
Happy as he was with his outing, Shields was in awe of Abreu.
“He’s unbelievable,” Shields said. “He’s unreal. He’s one of the best teammates I’ve been around. He comes to the park to play every day. A lot of people, they don’t really realize how hard that guy works, man. He works his butt off. He’s in here at noon working out every day when nobody’s even in here. He has a lot of fun. He’s starting to have fun with the guys in the clubhouse. He brings a great attitude every single day, and I love it.”