José Abreu broke the tie in the sixth. Then he just kept breaking stuff.
After homering six times in Friday night’s romp at Wrigley, the White Sox belted five more tonight. Abreu had three of them, and none earlier than the sixth inning. They all mattered.
He opened the sixth by deflecting an elevated Kyle Hendricks sinker over the wall in right to give the White Sox a 3-2 lead in what had been a well-executed game.
The game was more than half over, and yet Abreu was just getting started. In the eighth, he came to the plate after falling behind 0-2, only to get two unbelievably poor pitches from Rowan Wick. He fouled off a grooved fastball, but Wick responded by hanging a curveball, and Abreu didn’t miss that one. It resulted in two runs and a 5-2 lead.
And when Evan Marshall got tagged for a run in the eighth, Grandal and Abreu teamed up again. This time it was in the form of back-to-back solo shots off Duane Underwood Jr. with two outs. The insurance was again appreciated, because Alex Colomé made a bit of a mess in the ninth inning, although he came just short of bringing the tying run to the plate.
Abreu went 4-for-4 with a walk to lead the way. Throw in a Luis Robert two-run rocket in the second that opened the scoring, and the White Sox have 11 homers over the first two games of this series. That gives them 27 dingers over their last seven games, which Elias calls a record. Not by surprise, they’ve won seven straight, including their first series against a good team this year.
While the offense powered its way to the victory, a creative White Sox pitching arrangement made it hold up. Reynaldo López wasn’t an opener in the classic sense, as he threw 3⅓ innings on 50 pitches. He did serve as an opener in the larger sense, in that he let a starter with endurance issues begin his evening against the bottom of the order.
López only allowed one hit over his night, but wildness with his secondary pitches made that double count for two runs. He plunked Willson Contreras to start the second, walked Jason Heyward, then allowed a ringing double to Victor Caratini. It ricocheted off the ivy and past Eloy Jiménez, who was trapped too close to the wall, and both runners came home to tie the game at 2.
López’s fastball wasn’t as powerful as we’ve seen it, but he held his velocity at 94 with some movement, so we’ve seen worse. The secondary stuff sharpened up as his start progressed, but Renteria didn’t get greedy.
After López got the righty Contreras to pop out to open the fourth, Renteria lifted his starter for González to face the largely lefty portion of the North Side lineup. González got the game through seven with 3⅔ innings of typically inefficient shutout ball. That was good enough for his first win with the White Sox, more than 12 years after his first major-league victory.
*The White Sox were just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, but all the homers makes that easier to take.
*Yoán Moncada was the only White Sox held hitless, as he went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. He’s still not moving well.
*Abreu is the first White Sox player with five homers over two games. He passed Magglio Ordonez for fifth on the franchise’s all-time list.
Record: 17-11 | Box score | Statcast
This is the most fun I’ve had watching this team in a long, long time.
And the rest of the nation is taking notice. The Sox have become must-see TV.
With tonight’s win, the Sox stand at 17-11 and the Cubs stand at 16-10. With each team being 6 games over .500, the Sox would be listed in second place zero games back if the teams were in the same division because the Cubs have a slightly higher winning percentage. The Sox have a significantly better run differential however.
The facts in the above paragraph surprised me just a bit because my gut feeling was that the Sox have been on a great winning streak but the Cubs were having a better year overall. I think this gut feeling comes from the fact that the Cubs have a solid lead in their division while the Sox remain in 3rd place and the fact that the Cubs have the 2nd best record in the NL while the Sox have the 6th best record in the AL.
I am also willing to admit that Abreu has so far this year exceeded my expectations with his OPS over 1.000 almost halfway through the short season.
All Abreu is doing this season is hitting in a much better overall lineup.
As I tried to point out before and after the Sox re-signed him, and as Frank Thomas alluded to on tonight’s postgame show, it’s very difficult to be a productive hitter when you lack protection in the lineup. For too many years, Abreu felt he had to carry the entire team. When you have somebody like A.J. Reed batting behind you, the tendency is to swing at a pitch a few inches off the plate in an effort to drive in a run, because you know the next guy is likely to strike out if you don’t bring the run home.
We are very fortunate that even after all this losing the team has done, Abreu decided to re-sign with us. Just about every other star player in the league would have had a drop in the stats he compiled elsewhere if he had been forced to bat in those lineups the White Sox have fielded during most of Abreu’s time here.
I don’t know what Abreu is going to accomplish the rest of this season, and I’m sure someone will post some crazy stat and claim that he’s not that good after all, but it’s nice to see him playing on a winning team. He certainly deserves it.
I agree with all of that, and I also just think he’s having more fun. I’ve never seen him smile and laugh more than he is right now.
Here’s hoping that this “next gear” Abreu isn’t just a mirage and is a true unlocking of his talent when happy, relaxed, and protected.
I’m really glad Abreu is having a good year. I was in favor of resigning him but I did think the Sox ended up negotiating against themselves and overpaying. 120 or so plate appearances of excellent performance isn’t enough for me to change my mind about that last year of his contract probably being a big overpay.
I do think Abreu has changed his approach a bit and is not trying to do too much as often as last year (and 2018). He still has moments of trying to do too much (game 2 of the double header of doom, ugh) but that’s just human nature. That may be related to better hitters around him changing his mindset but I don’t think it is protection. In 2014, Abreu had his great rookie year with Adam Dunn (in his last Sox year) providing the “protection”. I think we’re probably going to have to agree to disagree on this.
Eric Longenhagen just wrote an interesting analysis of the two teams’ pitching staffs’ different strengths: rotation (Cubs) vs. bullpen (Sox). He thinks the bullpen makes it more likely for the Sox to make a deep postseason run.
It is incredibly fun to watch the Sox right now.
This being said, in order to increase the lineup’s potency even more, at what record do you feel comfortable putting Moncada on the 10 day-IL in order to get his leg adequately rested for a stretch run? It sucks to waste a chunk of his season but he’s worth much more feeling healthy after a hiatus than he is struggling through it as he is right now
If they’re gonna do it, I’m guessing they wait until Madrigal is back and Mendick can play 3rd. The dropoff, even from a banged-up Moncada, to (…checks roster…) Ryan Goins is pretty staggering.
If Moncada does hit the IL, Cuthbert should be the guy vs. lefties. While horrendous vs. righties, he has been above average in a platoon.
The Sox haven’t had any trouble against lefties in quite a while, so I’m not sure burning the 40 man spot would be worth it.
But I do kind of hope for Cuthbert over Goins just because I like the guy. His passion for raising chickens is one of my favorite human interest baseball stories from the last several years. B
I don’t know if 10 days is enough. He might need a gam transplant.
Not necessarily because of their record, but after today’s/Sunday’s game against the Cubs, 14 of the next 17 games are against the Royals, Tigers, and Pirates. This is probably the best time competition-wise to give Moncada a rest.
It’s amazing to think of how different this season looks from exactly one week ago. After the above-mentioned double-header of doom, it looked like this team was going nowhere. Now here we are 1 week and 27 home runs later, and it looks entirely different. I think the biggest at bat of the White Sox season was Moncada’s at bat which started the 4 consecutive homers. It was the bottom of the 5th, 1-0 White Sox and it looked like Mendick had just ruined a potential big inning by inexplicably getting thrown out trying to steal 2nd with a runner at 3rd and 1 out. The Sox had been wasting scoring opportunities all week long and not hitting in the clutch. It seemed like Moncada’s big 3-run homer just made everyone relax. Their approach at the plate this week has been stellar. They have forced starters to throw a ton of pitches early, and they are not missing the mistake pitches they are getting. This is a truly scary team right now, with good starting pitching and a very deep bullpen which has survived the loss of their best reliever without missing a beat.
One thing I would like to see Ricky do is get Marshall out of the 8th inning role. I would put Heuer, Foster or Burdi in that spot now. Those guys seem fearless on the mound. And now is as good a time as any to get them used to high leverage innings. Like I said yesterday, with Minnesota all banged up and Cleveland still trying to sort out the Plesac-Clevinger fiasco, this division is ripe for the taking. Go Sox!
The doubleheader against the Cardinals was embarrassing. Whether that spurred the success of the past week is something only the people in the dugout would really know, but it is remarkable how much better this Sunday morning feels from last week at this time.
I’m not sure the doubleheader spurred the success, because they started out Sunday’s game looking the same at the plate, and were fortunate that Keuchel was dealing. When Moncada hit that homer, it was like they breathed a collective sigh of relief and started to relax at the plate. Their collective approach at the plate this week is the best I’ve seen from them in years.