They said White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu would hit some home runs, but few expected him to show this much power this soon. Abreu blasted two home runs on Friday night against the Rays, including a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth. Abreu’s nine home runs breaks the record for long balls hit by rookies in the month of April. The previous record was eight, most recently set by Albert Pujols in April 2001 and previously held by Carlos Delgado and Kent Hrbek. Abreu’s 27 RBI in the month also ties a record, set by Pujols, for April runs batted in by a rookie.
Oh, and Abreu is tied for the MLB lead in home runs with Pujols at nine, and is also tied for the MLB lead in RBI with Giancarlo Stanton and Chris Colabello at 27.
Abreu got the scoring started for the White Sox in the first inning, driving an RBI single to center to put his team up 1-0 against Rays starter Chris Archer. The Rays stormed back for four runs in the top of the second inning, chasing Sox starter Erik Johnson after 1 2/3 innings.
Abreu brought the score to 4-2 in the third inning with a solo home run to straightaway center field, and the White Sox knotted things up at 4-4 when Tyler Flowers knocked in two runs with a single in the fourth.
The game remained tied at four apiece entering the top of the ninth, but Evan Longoria gave his team the lead with a two-run home run off of Matt Lindstrom to make it 6-4. In the bottom half of the ninth, the White Sox loaded the bases with one out against Rays reliever Grant Balfour when Alejandro De Aza doubled, and Tyler Flowers and Paul Konerko drew walks. However, their chances of walking off took a hit when Adam Eaton could only push across one run, grounding into a fielder’s choice at second base for the second out of the inning. The only thing that did was set up Abreu to become the hero. The White Sox needed one run to tie and two to win. With the count 0-1, Balfour threw a fastball on the outer edge of the strike zone, but Abreu drove it to right-center over the head of right fielder Wil Myers and over the fence for the walk-off grand slam, giving the White Sox the 9-6 victory.
The win pushes the White Sox to .500 at 12-12. They have hovered around .500 all season and sit two games behind the first-place Tigers in a three-way tie for second place along with the Twins and Royals.
Your Friday box scores:
Rays 6, White Sox 9
Royals 5, Orioles 0
Padres 1, Nationals 11
Angels 13, Yankees 1
Marlins 3, Mets 4
Red Sox 8, Blue Jays 1
Reds 4, Braves 5
Cubs 2, Brewers 5
Tigers 10, Twins 6
Pirates 0, Cardinals 1
Athletics 12, Astros 5
Phillies 4, Diamondbacks 5
Rangers 5, Mariners 6
Rockies 5, Dodgers 4
Indians 1, Giants 5
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.