During the White Sox 4-2 win over Houston on Tuesday night, Melky Cabrera walked.
Normally, that wouldn’t be noteworthy. But it was the first walk Cabrera drew in 103 plate appearances, a run dating back to mid-May.
Sandwiched between those games in which he took a walk — May 15 and June 9 — was a stretch in which the outfielder hit .202 with a .424 OPS and only two extra-base hits. Coincidence or not, in Cabrera’s at-bat following his walk he ripped a two-run double off Astros reliever Chad Qualls that ultimately turned out to be necessary to keep the White Sox ahead.
“(He was) probably not swinging that well,” manager Robin Ventura said. “And when you’re not swinging well, you tend to expand the zone somewhat and you’re not able to make contact.”
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Cabrera didn’t earn his three-year, $42 million contract from the White Sox by drawing a ton of walks — he has only a 7.1 percent walk rate over his 10-year career. He’s had good seasons in which he didn’t walk much like in 2011, when he had an .809 OPS with Kansas City despite a career-low five percent walk rate.
But with Cabrera not making as much hard contact this year as he has in the past, his lack of free passes has become a little more glaring. He’s hit sixth in four of his last five games, including Wednesday night’s series finale against Houston, and has a paltry .233/.272/.269 slash line on the season.
Ventura hopes Cabrera’s walk on Tuesday is a sign he’s getting more comfortable at the plate and will snap out of his season-long slump soon.
“He’s swung it better the past couple days,” Ventura said, “and being able to hit it hard or take a walk is definitely a step in the right direction.”