José Abreu waited seven big league seasons to make the playoffs.
He wasted no time making his mark on the his first-ever postseason game.
The front-runner for American League MVP honors, Abreu did what he's done all season, putting the White Sox on his shoulders and delivering when it matters most. After singling in his first playoff at-bat in Game 1 of the AL Wild Card Series on Tuesday, Abreu smashed a two-run homer that proved to be the biggest offensive moment in the White Sox 4-1 win.
Just another day at the office for Abreu and his adoring teammates.
"I can't say enough great things about him. I've been doing it all year. We all have," starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said. "We all love Pito, what he contributes to this team on the field, off the field. Just an amazing player, an amazing person.
"I'm very happy that he was able to hit that home run, ... kind of showing out in his first postseason game after such a nice career he's had and such a nice season he's had. I'm just looking forward to watching him go back to work tomorrow."
It's a safe bet he will do just that. Since arriving in Cuba ahead of the 2014 season, Abreu has been as consistent a hitter you will find in the major leagues. Also consistent, however, were his October plans, as the White Sox posted sub-.500 records in each of his first six seasons on the South Side. That didn't deter him one bit, though, from signing a new deal to stay with the White Sox last offseason, a bigger believer than anyone when it came to the team's bright future.
That future is now, and what a shock, Abreu is right in the middle of it.
This shortened season might be difficult to compare with the full seasons he played before it, but he was the AL's top hitter in 2020. And though "consistent delivery" is not a stat, it was his best area, as he routinely drove in runs at the most critical times. His 60 RBIs led the majors, as he became the first player in nearly two decades to drive in at least as many runs as he had games played.
He did it again Tuesday, that two-run homer off Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jesús Luzardo the playoff equivalent of breaking a game open, especially with the way Giolito was pitching, pushing the score to 3-0 in the third inning. Luzardo was out of the game not long after.
"The most consistent hitter there is," shortstop Tim Anderson, who was along for the ride on Abreu's bomb, said after the game. "He got a pitch, and he was able to drive it out of the ballpark. That shows the type of hitter he is. He waited him out and was able to get a pitch he could handle. And it’s 3-0 right there."
But along with appreciating the moment from the standpoint of what it meant in an important game, the moment meant a lot in the big picture of Abreu's career with the White Sox. He means an awful lot to this team as a leader and a mentor in the clubhouse. He's frequently talked up as a model for the team's large number of young players.
And the feeling is mutual. Abreu spent the entirety of the 2019 campaign saying that if the White Sox didn't re-sign him in the offseason, he would re-sign himself. It will be no surprise to see his No. 79 retired one day at Guaranteed Rate Field.
"I'm thankful for the White Sox, thankful for the chance that they gave me to play here, thankful for my family for all the support they've given me. I'm thankful for all the people that have helped me get to this point," Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo prior to Tuesday's game. "I think it's an exciting moment, and I'm just thankful with the life and all the things I've been getting since I got here."
This MVP season he's having is a nice wake-up call for the league at large that might not have been aware of just how productive and what kind of anchor he's been for this team for years.
The White Sox know, though. And that's why they were feeling so good about what Abreu did Tuesday.
That, and it helped them come within a victory of winning their first playoff series since the 2005 World Series.
Of course, before the game even started, Abreu knew what was going to be the most important moment for him, evaluating his first day in the postseason in the most Abreu way possible.
"I think my biggest emotion will be what my mother thinks of me because I know she will be watching the game and she will be very proud and very happy," he said. "Just having that thought will be the greatest feeling that I can feel in that moment on the field."