José Abreu's two-homer night a slump-buster for MVP, Sox originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
If that was the end of José Abreu's slow start, the rest of the American League might want to watch out.
The reigning AL MVP has had a tough go at the outset of the campaign. He came into Tuesday night's game in Cleveland batting just .188 with a nasty 3-for-17 mark with runners in scoring position. Cashing in on scoring chances has been a team-wide issue for the White Sox as they've struggled to get north of .500 through the first few weeks of the season. But Abreu coming up empty in the moments he consistently delivered in last year has certainly not been helpful.
Still, no one in the White Sox employ was panicking that their heaviest hitter was going to be mired in a slump all season long, and that included No. 79 himself.
"I think it's part of the season, part of baseball," Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo last week. "Throughout my eight years in the majors, I haven't gotten off to a really hot start. I think it's just who I am as a baseball player. I usually don't start the season super hot.
"I'm going to keep getting better. You know me, I'm going to keep working hard. I'm not concerned about my offense right now."
Well, he was right not to worry.
Tuesday night, Abreu exploded for a pair of home runs, doubling his season total. The longer of the two traveled 458 feet. He had three hits on the evening, driving in three and scoring three in the White Sox 8-5 victory over their division rivals.
It's just one game, of course, but it got folks wondering whether that was the slump-busting performance Abreu needed.
If it was, then the White Sox can start licking their chops at what's to come. Not only does having the league MVP at his usual levels increase the chances of winning on a nightly basis, Abreu makes the lineup around him better, too.
"It creates happiness," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. "He's such a popular, popular person and player that when he does good, everybody in that dugout knows how important it is to him and they get happy. There's a lot of happiness, because of the big fella."
The White Sox looked like a different offense Tuesday. Granted, they feasted against Zach Plesac for the second time in a week. But a group that's been hit-or-miss to start the season looked far more like the potent collection of bats envisioned before the season started. Even without the injured Eloy Jiménez, a lineup that was the AL's most powerful a season ago is loaded.
And it all centers around Abreu.
"Dangerous, man. It's dangerous," White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said, asked how different a clicking Abreu makes the team's offense. "Once he gets going, pretty much everybody else is rolling, as well. So for him to come up with three big hits tonight, it definitely says that that bat's coming around."
While seeing Abreu get back in the swing of things is a return to normalcy for the White Sox, there was a strange element to his outburst Tuesday night: He was DH'ing.
Abreu famously doesn't care for serving as the designated hitter, preferring to play the field. But La Russa decided that Tuesday provided an opportunity to get Abreu off his feet following Sunday's doubleheader and another lengthy affair Monday in Boston.
With Abreu going off as the DH, La Russa was left wondering after the game how he'd be able to sell another appearance there Wednesday.
"Now the $64,000 question is: Does he DH tomorrow?" La Russa said with a smile. "I don't know the answer. I'm going to wait to present that to him.
"I'm superstitious, I'd want to DH. But we'll see what he says."
Abreu might not be up for that. But as long as he's up for hitting the way he did Tuesday night, the White Sox offense can start coming out of their collective season-opening funk and be a consistent terror to the pitching staffs of the Junior Circuit.
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