Teammates laud Abreu after savvy baserunning

August 14th, 2022

CHICAGO -- José Abreu’s winning moment in the seventh inning of a 6-4 White Sox victory over the Tigers on Saturday night at Guaranteed Rate Field easily could go unnoticed.

It becomes less obvious with Abreu choosing not to talk about his contributions after a second straight victory for the White Sox moved them within 2 1/2 games of the Guardians in the American League Central. But that decision is not an unusual one for the White Sox team leader, who is also one of its best quotes, but at times elects for his on-field production to speak for itself.

So it was up to Abreu’s teammates to talk about his baseball acumen. White Sox fans might be doing the same, but they weren’t available in the postgame clubhouse.

With one out and Abreu on first base, Yasmani Grandal hit a 397-foot drive to center field with an expected batting average of .650, according to Statcast. Manager Tony La Russa was stunned the baseball stayed in the ballpark, with Riley Greene grabbing the drive near the wall. Abreu tagged up on the play to get into scoring position in a game tied at 4 and beat Greene’s throw to shortstop Javier Báez by a foot.

Three pitches later, Andrew Vaughn grounded a single to center for the go-ahead run. RBI No. 56 for Vaughn, but not possible without Abreu.

“Pito’s not a very fast guy, but he knows baseball,” Vaughn said. “And he knew, ‘Hey, if I can get into scoring position right here …’ You don’t even have to ask him. That’s exactly what he did. It’s the little things sometimes.”

Said La Russa: “He’s an excellent baserunner. If his legs feel good, he’s got a little extra gear there he gets to. That’s a heads-up, knowing the situation. And if the ball went out of the park, he trots in. If he catches it, he tags up. I’m just glad Yaz didn’t pass him.”

La Russa was especially satisfied to see the Abreu-Vaughn combination come in the seventh, giving the win to Lucas Giolito. (The manager lamented Michael Kopech missing out on victory after his six no-hit innings Friday.) Giolito (9-6) allowed four runs on eight hits over seven innings, with seven strikeouts and one walk.

In the second inning, Giolito got ahead at 0-2 on rookie Kerry Carpenter before the count ran full with two outs. His 3-2 fastball pretty clearly caught the strike zone, but home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called it ball four.

Three straight hits followed, including Greene’s bases-clearing, three-run double to left, which Eloy Jiménez didn’t play to perfection. But Giolito quickly settled down and retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced.

“I got a little pissed off after the second inning,” Giolito said. “It was a big pitch that inning on a 3-2 count that was a strike I would have liked. Could have made the inning go a lot different. But that’s baseball. I could have done a better job limiting damage that inning. But I was angry.

“A lot of times when you’re angry, it can turn into frustration. That takes you out of it. But I made it a point to channel it into aggression toward executing pitches and starting finding a rhythm in the fourth, fifth inning and carried it through seven.”

The victory Saturday raised the White Sox record at home to 27-29. They are 10-8 in this stretch of 19 straight against teams with sub-.500 records, as Houston comes to town Monday for four and then three to follow in Cleveland.

In order for the White Sox to succeed in that stretch and keep their playoff hopes moving, they will need more smart baseball as Abreu exhibited. It’s nothing new for those who know him, who are also those more than willing to talk about him.

“He’s one of a kind,” Vaughn said of Abreu, whose play at second was put to a video challenge but was ruled as the call stands. “He’s special the way he goes about his work. Every single day he shows up, does his thing and he produces … a lot.”

Added Giolito: “That’s massive. He's a leader by example. So when he’s out there playing his ass off, doing the little things right, giving the extra effort, just so we have a chance to scratch another run across, it’s uplifting. I think it’s motivation for every single guy watching it in the dugout, on-deck circle.’”