Jose Abreu’s hot bat continues to ignite the White Sox offense and has the club confident in what he’s capable of once again.
The slugger had three more hits on Wednesday afternoon and his White Sox teammates did the rest with a 7-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers in front of 13,078 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Justin Morneau, Avisail Garcia, Tyler Saladino and Adam Eaton all had run-scoring hits in a four-run, eighth-inning rally as the White Sox closed out a series win over Detroit. Abreu, who raised his average to .298 and drove in his 88th run, had a game-tying sacrifice fly and later scored the game-tying run on Morneau’s one-out double in the eighth off Shane Greene.
“(Abreu) gets it started,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “If we can get some guys on, it seems he has the ability that's going to carry you. He's swinging it good, you can tell he's patient as well. That's the biggest thing, he's not swinging at everything. He's willing to talk a walk. It just changes the at-bat for the pitchers. We like it when he's swinging well.”
The White Sox offense has struggled for many reasons this season.
Though original plans called for a platoon, Adam LaRoche’s retirement and a season-ending injury for Austin Jackson resulted in a full-time role for Garcia. It also landed Jimmy Rollins, who had a .624 OPS before he was released, in the No. 2 spot in the lineup early in the season as Melky Cabrera was needed to break up the middle of the order.
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Todd Frazier’s struggles with runners in scoring position has also been one of the club’s key issues. The team also expected a bigger boost from catchers Dioner Navarro and Alex Avila and didn’t receive.
And then there was Abreu, who until Aug. 9 was nowhere near the offensive force the team has come to rely upon the past two seasons. While he still produced at a league-average rate, Abreu and the White Sox had hoped for more.
Over the last month the White Sox have received the desired production from Abreu and — combined with a solid left-handed stick in Morneau — as a result, they’ve improved significantly. Abreu attributes the improvement to motivation provided by first-ever visit of his son, Dariel, and a mechanical adjustment with his hands.
Since Dariel’s Aug. 7 arrival, Abreu is hitting .379/.416/.647 with nine homers and 28 RBIs.
In the same span, the White Sox have hit .277/.329/.430 and scored 4.9 runs per game. The team has also been held to two or fewer runs seven times (25 percent) in 28 games compared with 37 times in their first 111 games (33.3 percent).
“It gives us confidence going forward not only to finish the year strong but for next year too as well, depending on what do in the offseason,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “To see the stuff he’s doing now -- he seems real relaxed, he’s focused and any pitch that comes, he either slows down nice and attacks the ball like a good hitter or a fastball he catches up with it and drives it. It’s fun to see.”
Jose Quintana thought so, too.
Despite a good effort, Quintana (four earned runs in 6 2/3 innings) was on the hook for a loss until his teammates rallied in the eighth. Abreu started the go-ahead rally with a single and motored all the way around from first to score on Morneau’s double to right center. Garcia followed Morneau with an RBI single to center to give the White Sox a 5-4 lead. Saladino and Eaton also had RBI singles to build a three-run cushion.
Abreu’s production hasn’t just renewed his teammates’ faith in his abilities. Even the front office feels a sense of relief that their slugger hasn’t morphed into a singles hitter.
“It certainly makes you more confident as you see him over the last six weeks, projecting out that he's going to be that same player that he was for the first two years of his career,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “Earlier, when he was scuffling, you looked at some of the things he was doing from his approach or some of the mechanical issues he might have been having and you felt confident he was going to be able to get back. But in all candor, you like seeing the performance match what you're projecting and we've certainly seen that over the last six weeks.”