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
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.