CHICAGO -- José Abreu is one of the most accomplished hitters in White Sox history, currently ranking fifth all-time in home runs and 10th in RBIs.
He has turned himself into a Gold Glove-caliber defensive player at first base, and his leadership on and off the field has been described as unparalleled. But based on his dash home at the close of a 4-3 walk-off victory for the White Sox over the Royals Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field, another trait can be added to Abreu’s long resume.
“Outstanding instinctive baserunning,” said White Sox manager Tony La Russa with a broad smile, following the team’s seventh comeback win this season.
The deciding moment of a two-run White Sox ninth against Kansas City’s Wade Davis came after Tim Anderson doubled and Yoán Moncada singled him home to tie the score at three after Adam Eaton’s sacrifice bunt. Abreu was hit by a pitch, and Moncada was then nailed at the plate by Whit Merrifield for the inning’s second out after running through third-base coach Joe McEwing’s stop sign on Yermín Mercedes’ single to right.
Yasmani Grandal was at the plate with Abreu on third when Davis’ 1-1 pitch bounced just a few feet away from catcher Cam Gallagher. Abreu broke for the plate immediately and was ruled by home-plate umpire Edwin Moscoso to have beaten Gallagher’s diving effort.
Moscoso’s call stood after video review, sending the White Sox dugout into a frenzied celebration usually reserved for some sort of postseason accomplishment. Royals manager Mike Matheny stridently disagreed with the call not being overruled in review, as he expressed in his postgame Zoom.
“[Abreu] didn’t go over the plate, never did touch it until his hand came through later,” Matheny said. “The tag was already placed on his jersey. You see the jersey move when he tagged him on the body. ... If we’re going to use video replay, there needs to be some accountability. I just walked in here and had two different camera angles with this guy out.”
“C’mon baby. He was safe. They said he was safe, they even gave it replay,” said Eaton, who homered in the fifth to give the White Sox a 2-1 lead. “I had a pretty good view of it. Cam, I think made the right decision. It's tough for a pitcher to run that far and to catch [and] find the plate. and we don't want another collision. Bang-bang play. Heck of a slide by José, and we'll definitely take it."
While the final play outcome seems to be disputed by the two teams, there’s absolute certainty regarding Abreu’s toughness. Actually, it’s a level above certainty.
On Friday, in the second inning of Game 1 of the doubleheader, Abreu had a violent collision with Hunter Dozier near home plate while chasing Dozier’s popup and had to leave the game. He suffered a facial contusion and laceration, as well as a bruised left knee.
But according to La Russa, Abreu wanted to stay in the game Friday, and then pushed to start in Friday’s nightcap. Instead, he returned Saturday to launch a home run off Mike Minor, and had two more hits prior to scoring the winning run in the 999th game of his illustrious career Sunday.
It’s this sort of unwavering desire to play that serves as another valiant point of reference for his teammates.
“He raises the bar everywhere. It’s a ripple effect. It really is, what he brings every day,” Eaton said. “Banged up, [struggling]. He struggled early on. He’s the same guy every single day coming in here. He’s banged up, still playing through it.
“Runs into things. How many times has he gotten hit? That arm. Like I said, it raises the bar for everybody. There’s a standard here, and he is the standard. If you don’t meet that standard, like I said, you’re going to glare. That’s a beautiful thing. Everyone’s got to get up to that standard and play at a high intensity.”
La Russa said Abreu’s left knee was a little sore after the final play, but it clearly was a good kind of pain in this instance. The victory improved the White Sox to 24-15 overall. They maintained their hold atop the American League Central, while finishing their homestand at 5-2 and raising their record during 13 straight games within the division to 8-2.
The victory was also another highlight notched in Abreu’s White Sox legacy.
“What’s the highest compliment I can give him? He stands right next to Albert [Pujols] for me,” La Russa said. “He knows, ‘If I can score, we win.’ Ball in the dirt and he reacts instinctively. He’s thinking, ‘Win, win, win.’"