HOUSTON — That José Abreu suited up for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday might not have been a surprise.
It's what Abreu has done all year, after all. He's been beat up again and again, taking pitches off his helmet, frighteningly colliding with opposing players and even having an umpire throw a bat off his knee.
But that doesn't mean it's stopped inspiring his teammates.
"When you have a player like that," Chicago White Sox outfielder Eloy Jiménez said before Thursday's game, "that motivates the other players to be like that. So for us to have José, it's really good. Because sometimes you feel bad, but you see him play and he does a really good. ... He's been getting hit. He was like collision with (Kansas City Royals infielder Hunter Dozier). And the next day he was playing.
"Every single day, he plays, no matter how he feels. ... Having José is really good. He's really impressive."
Abreu has battled flu-like symptoms for days now, and he admitted after the White Sox' 6-1 loss to the Houston Astros on Thursday that he's still not feeling great.
But as his manager and teammates alluded to a day earlier, it was going to take something significant to keep their stubborn leader out of the lineup.
So there he was, doing everything he could to get himself cleared to play in his team's first game of the postseason, to be there for every step of its quest for a championship. He took batting practice and went through other tests before Game 1 and got the green light from the White Sox.
Then he picked up a pair of hits and drove in the team's only run.
Big surprise, right?
"If I tell you that I'm feeling 100 percent, I would be lying to you," Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "The commitment I have to this team, I have to give my best to this team every day. It doesn't matter how I feel or how many days I went without playing. It was important for me and for the team for me to play today."
Again, this is no shock to his teammates and something they've come to greatly admire about the reigning AL MVP.
"He'll give anything for this team, anything for all the guys that play alongside him," White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said before Game 1. "I can't say I'm surprised at all. ... He's got some of the most heart I've ever seen in a baseball player, and it's such a pleasure to be teammates with him and be able to watch him do what he does."
"He's not coming out of a game, it doesn't matter," White Sox closer Liam Hendriks told NBC Sports Chicago last month. "You're going to have to stretcher him off if you want to get him out of the game."
And that's what they'll expect moving forward.
While Abreu might not be over his current illness, saying that he'll use Thursday night to rest up and see how he feels Friday, it would be a shock to see him sit out of Game 2. In fact, it would be no surprise for him to fight through how he's feeling and return to his usual spot at first base after DH'ing in Game 1. But we'll see how the White Sox approach things.
"What he did today is routine," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. "And you almost take it for granted, except it would be a terrible mistake to make because his commitment to the team and his toughness is as good as it can possibly be by anybody that's ever played the game.
"He has done that. ... Unfortunately, he's had to show that toughness more than he should."