The ball did not bounce far from home plate.
It didn’t matter. José Abreu was determined to score.
Abreu sprinted home and scored the winning run on a wild pitch with two outs in the ninth inning as the Chicago White Sox rallied to beat the Kansas City Royals 4-3 in front of 9,928 on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The Sox scored twice in the ninth to salvage a split of the four-game series.
“We were talking about all his attributes, now you have to add outstanding instinctive baserunning,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “It’s a great play.
“He knows, ‘If I can score, we win.’ Ball in the dirt and he reacts instinctively. He’s thinking win, win, win.”
Abreu went 2-for-4 and was hit by a pitch in the ninth, which eventually led to the dash to the plate.
On Friday, Abreu left Game 1 of a doubleheader in the second inning after a nasty collision with batter Hunter Dozier while trying to catch a popup near home plate. He missed the second game of the doubleheader but returned Saturday and went 2-for-4 with a home run.
“You can’t keep that guy out of the lineup,” said Sox starter Dylan Cease, who allowed one unearned run on three hits with three strikeouts and three walks in 5⅔ innings.
“To see our MVP go out there, whether he’s in a collision and then the next day he’s out there or he’s hit by a pitch, it doesn’t matter how his body is feeling, he wants to be in the lineup. For someone to set the tone like that, that’s a guy you want to follow.”
Abreu added to the remarkable recovery Sunday.
“This guy, he’s a great player,” La Russa said. “I was saying (Saturday) about his toughness: How do you explain how committed he is to playing? He comes back and plays (Saturday) and performs. Then you look at this game today and that’s why he offers you so many examples of his greatness, and the one that nobody sees is what happens in the locker room and the back of the plane.
“What’s the highest compliment I can give him? He stands right next to Albert (Pujols) for me.”
Abreu was not available for comment after the game.
The Sox entered the ninth trailing 3-2. Tim Anderson, who went 3-for-5, started the inning with a double off Wade Davis and moved to third on a bunt by Adam Eaton.
Yoán Moncada knocked him in with a single to center, tying the score at 3.
After Davis hit Abreu with a pitch, Yermín Mercedes singled to right, but Moncada ran through a stop sign and was thrown out at the plate by Whit Merrifield. Abreu advanced to third on the play.
With Yasmani Grandal at the plate, Davis threw a 1-1 knuckle-curve into the dirt. The ball bounced away but not far from catcher Cam Gallagher. Abreu sprinted home and slid as Gallagher attempted a diving tag.
Plate umpire Edwin Moscoso called Abreu safe. After a review, the call stood as the Sox, who lead the American League Central at 24-15, ended their homestand on a positive note.
“He was safe,” said Eaton, who went 1-for-2 with a two-run home run, two walks and the sacrifice bunt. “They said he was safe, they even gave it replay. I had a pretty good view of it.
“Cam made the right decision. It’s tough for a pitcher to run that far and to catch, find the home plate and we don’t want another collision like we did. It’s a tough play. So Cam made the right play there. Bang-bang play. Heck of a slide by José, and we’ll definitely take it.”
Royals manager Mike Matheny had a different opinion.
“I just have to make a point that if we’re going to use video replay, there needs to be some accountability,” Matheny told Kansas City reporters. “I just walked in here and had two different camera angles with this guy out, tagged before he ever even touched the plate — and very obvious.”
Teammates gathered around Abreu to celebrate near the Sox dugout in the immediate aftermath.
“He raises the bar everywhere,” Eaton said. “It’s a ripple effect. What he brings every day — banged up, he struggled early on. He’s the same guy every single day coming in here. He’s banged up, still playing through it. Runs into things. How many times has he gotten hit? That arm.
“It raises the bar for everybody. There’s a standard here, and he is the standard.”