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Jose Abreu keeps fans interested, hits 26th home run

Alexei Ramirez high-fives Jose Abreu after Abreu’s three-run home run first inning Game 1 Tuesday against Los Angeles Angels. |

Alexei Ramirez high-fives Jose Abreu after Abreu’s three-run home run in the first inning of Game 1 Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels. | Charles rex Arbogast/AP

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Updated: July 2, 2014 2:22AM



A fan arrived at U.S. Cellular Field between games of the White Sox’ twi-night doubleheader Tuesday.

“Did the Sox win?” she asked.

No.

“Did Abreu hit one?”

He did. He hit his 26th home run, which gave him the major-league lead. It came with two men on base and hiked his RBI total to 67, which also led the majors.

And so it goes with the Sox. They lose 8-4, but they are always worth a watch as long as the Cuban star playing his first season in the majors is showing up for his four at-bats a game.

As hitting coach Todd Steverson said, “You don’t leave your seat for popcorn when he comes up.’’

Abreu’s home runs come in all shapes and sizes. Long, tall, short, low and in all directions. He drove an off-speed pitch from Angels right-hander Garrett Richards on the outside corner and lined it over the right-field fence inside the foul pole. He has homered against four Cy Young winners, and this one may have been against the American League Pitcher of the Month for June. Abreu is a candidate to win Player of the Month honors for the second time. Ballots for both categories were filled out Tuesday.

“We saw him in the spring,’’ Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, “and there was no doubt in the spring the talent was real, the bat speed’s there, the strength — and he’s turned it into a terrific first half, certainly with the power numbers and the production numbers. He’s a force. There’s no doubt about it.

“I’m sure that he’s going to be somebody we’re really going to have to contain, and he’s shown what his talent can bring, definitely from the power aspect.”

As the weather warms up this summer and the Cell becomes more hitter-friendly, Abreu, who played in cold weather for the first time this spring, doesn’t figure to slow down.

“Well, I think his power plays in the Grand Canyon,’’ Scioscia said. “He’s got pretty good power.”

Sox manager Robin Ventura said Abreu is not unlike one of Scioscia’s sluggers, Albert Pujols — who joined Abreu and teammates Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton in the home-run column in Game 1.

“Power-wise and being able to use both sides of the field, they’re very similar,’’ Ventura said. “When you look at them at the plate, the way the ball comes off their bat, it’s on a very similar path.’’

When Abreu became the only player in major-league history to hit 26 homers in his first 70 games, there appeared to be no more than several hundred fans in the ballpark. The game, added to make up for the rained-out game Monday, started at 4:10. The crowd (20,233) grew gradually as the night went along.

Ventura was asked after Game 1 if it was disappointing that no one else produced any runs besides Abreu.

“It’s not leaning on him; he’s going to do that anyway,’’ Ventura said.

Abreu singled sharply off third baseman Grant Green’s glove in the first inning of Game 2 and grounded out his next two at-bats. Conor Gillaspie hit a two-run homer — his first of the season — in the second inning and added an RBI single that Dayan Viciedo followed with a 417-foot homer in the sixth as the Sox rallied against Angels starter Jered Weaver, but they couldn’t avoid a sweep as the Angels hung on for a 7-5 victory.

Sox right-hander Scott Carroll got roughed up over six-plus innings for 10 hits, including leadoff man Kole Calhoun’s two-run homer.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @CST_soxvan



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