Jose Abreu made his way back into the record books on Thursday night.
And he knew it.
Abreu breathed a sigh of relief when -- in a 6-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals -- he joined Albert Pujols as the only player in major league history to begin his career with two consecutive seasons of at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. Abreu, who shared a hug with White Sox first-base coach Daryl Boston after he reached first, finished 2-for-4 as he plated RBIs No. 100 and 101 of the season with a seventh-inning single off Royals reliever Luke Hochevar.
“I was thinking a lot about it every time,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “I tried to not think about it, but I couldn’t do it because it was something that was in my head. Because I like the stats, it’s something that I was always thinking. I tried not to think about it, but I couldn’t it.
“It is a big honor to see my name along with Albert. He’s one of the greatest players in the history of baseball and now I have the opportunity to see my name next to his.”
One night earlier, Abreu homered to become only the third player in baseball history -- and first American Leaguer -- to hit at least 30 homers in consecutive seasons to start a career along with Pujols and Ryan Braun.
To reach Thursday’s mark, Abreu needed some help from his friends. With two outs and the White Sox trailing by four runs, Tyler Flowers singled to right off Hochevar. Adam Eaton’s ground-rule double put a pair of runners in scoring position for Abreu, who fell behind in the count 0-2. Abreu took a pair of cut-fastballs off the outside corner before he ripped a 94-mph fastball past the dive of Mike Moustakas into left to score both runners. Eaton scored twice Thursday to give him 97 runs for the season as he vies to become the first White Sox player to score 100 times since 2006.
Pujols became the first player to post consecutive season of at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs from 2001-02.
“Jose is special,” starting pitcher John Danks said. “That’s really the only word I can come up with.
“We need to get him into the playoffs. He’s, if at all possible, maybe flying under the radar a little bit just because in the couple years he’s been here, we haven’t been in contention. He’s a great teammate, a hell of a ballplayer and it’s fun to watch him.”
The reigning AL rookie of the year’s encore season has been superb in his sophomore season given he hasn’t been afforded the kind of protection he received from Adam Dunn in 2014.
Abreu, who earned all 30 first-place votes in the 2014 AL ROY balloting, hasn’t hit for as much power with runners in scoring position, but still brought a .980 OPS into Thursday’s game. Before he drove in the pair, Abreu had a .338/.449/.531 slash line with six homers and 62 RBIs with runners in scoring position.
Abreu hit .317/.444/.651 with 12 homers and 74 RBIs with runners in scoring position in 2014.
Abreu also established a career high for hits in a season with 178. Last season, Abreu finished with 176. The first baseman missed an opportunity to drive in his 100th run and set a career high in hits in Wednesday’s loss when he stranded the go-ahead run at third base.
“He went through the first time and everybody had questions about the next year and talking about power numbers, but when you’re the only two guys that have 30 and 100 it just shows his consistency that he had last year and his talent,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He was relieved. I know he was… this is important. I think guys count on numbers and things like that. For him, it’s special.”