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
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.