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White Sox 'want the bigger goal' after clinch

@scottmerkin
September 17, 2020

CHICAGO -- José Abreu has endured six years of losing as part of the White Sox. No playoff appearances, no seasons over .500 and a rebuild featuring lean years over the past three. But in Thursday’s 4-3 victory over the Twins, the White Sox team leader and American League Most

CHICAGO -- José Abreu has endured six years of losing as part of the White Sox.

No playoff appearances, no seasons over .500 and a rebuild featuring lean years over the past three. But in Thursday’s 4-3 victory over the Twins, the White Sox team leader and American League Most Valuable Player Award candidate pushed the South Siders to their first playoff appearance since 2008 and third since 2001.

Box score

And although Abreu chose to wait until it was official to share his thoughts about the first of what could be many momentous events for this team, his manager and teammates were ready to revel in and reveal his joy.

“He's really happy. He said he finally made it,” said left fielder Eloy Jiménez of his mentor. “He's really happy, I'm really happy. To see that he works hard every single day, and now he'll make his first appearance in the playoffs."

“We're very thankful he's still here and a part of the White Sox,” said manager Rick Renteria of Abreu. “This is where he started his career, he's a heartfelt White Sock. If there's anybody in that room that I'm really, really happy for, in particular 'Pito.' He does represent the White Sox in the best way you can possibly represent the White Sox."

Abreu homered in the fourth inning off Twins starter Kenta Maeda, giving him 17 for the season and 196 for his career, and 51 RBIs in 2020. He became the first MLB player with 50-plus RBIs in his team's first 50 games of a season since Miguel Cabrera had 57 in the Tigers’ first 50 games in 2013. Cabrera won the AL MVP Award that season.

But it was Abreu’s speed that provided a game-changing moment during a two-run seventh, helping the White Sox take three out of four from the Twins and move three games up in the AL Central.

With runners on first and third and two outs, Abreu reached out and grounded a 2-2 splitter from reliever Sergio Romo toward shortstop Jorge Polanco, then beat the throw to first by a step to send home Jarrod Dyson with the game-tying run.

According to Statcast, Abreu’s sprint speed was 28.0 feet per second, which is above the MLB average (27.0) as well as Abreu's season avg (26.6). That 28.0 is the second-fastest sprint speed he's recorded on any play this season.

“When I looked back to first base, he was already on first, I was like, [shocked expression],” said Jiménez, who lowered his mask during the Zoom call to further illustrate his shock. “Yeah, that was my face. But I feel really happy, because he tied the game and he gave me the opportunity to do something."

Jiménez followed with a first-pitch double to left off a four-seam fastball, plating the game-winning run and setting off a dugout celebration. Jiménez had struck out three times prior to that at-bat.

Alex Colomé recorded the final four outs for his 12th save. And when pinch-hitter Willians Astudillo flied out to center fielder Luis Robert, the celebration began, though it was a somewhat subdued celebration for the White Sox, who traveled to Cincinnati after the victory and still have 10 regular-season games remaining.

“That lets you know we're all on the same page. We want the bigger goal,” shortstop Tim Anderson said. “These are just steps along the way. We did this, now it's on to the next. What else can we do?”

"It was a fun moment, but we just said we're going to save it for when we clinch our division, like when we win our division,” Jiménez said. “Everybody's happy, to be honest. We just have 10 more games left, and we just need to keep playing hard.”

Renteria and his staff certainly deserve credit for the White Sox success. They guided this team through the choppy rebuild waters, creating a new culture and leading them to this accomplishment. In Renteria’s mind, the best is yet to come.

“This is just one phase of it. These guys continue to hopefully get better,” Renteria said. “This continues to be a part of the process that hopefully solidifies the organization as it continues to move forward.

“Trust me, I'm smiling ear to ear underneath the mask. We're very proud of the moment, but we can't lay on our laurels here. This is a game, as we say all the time, of 'What have you done for me lately?' So we've got to just continue to play and try to play well.”

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.