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Jose Abreu snaps HR drought, but White Sox still lose

Updated: September 22, 2014 12:11PM

No one seemed to be panicking about Jose Abreu’s 0-for-August in home runs, but it was a significant drought for the star rookie who watched his American League lead disappear when the Orioles’ Nelson Cruz hit No. 32 at U.S. Cellular Field the night before.

That dry spell finally came to an end during Abreu’s first at-bat in the White Sox’ 5-1 loss Tuesday to the Baltimore Orioles when he homered into the left-field seats against Chris Tillman for his first long ball since July 29, putting him in a tie for the major-league lead with Cruz and Giancarlo Stanton.

The Sox scrounged up two more hits against Tillman (10-5), producing their customary low-end support for Jose Quintana (6-10). At least Abreu got off the schneid. It gave the 13,307 in attendance — the lowest at home since April —one thing to applaud.

“I was glad and thankful I was able to make good contact, and tomorrow I may have another one,’’ Abreu said through a translator.

Abreu, who also grounded out, walked and reached on an error, is batting .303 with 90 RBI.

“He’s hitting for average; he’s had some big hits,’’ manager Robin Ventura said before the game. “The power stuff will be there. Watching him take batting practice, you know he still has power. It’s not like it disappeared.’’

It reappeared in the first inning, and so did the hobble on Abreu’s left leg while he was running out a grounder, which hadn’t been noticeable in recent weeks. Abreu says he’s fine, but Ventura will use him as the DH in the series finale when the Sox (59-67), losers of nine of the last 13, try to salvage a win Wednesday. Paul Konerko will play first base.

After being named American League Player of the Month in July, Abreu has two extra-base hits with nine games left in August. He has excelled at staying inside the ball, but of late he had been coming around it with more frequency. Pitchers are throwing him hard stuff inside, and Abreu hasn’t always laid off some of those pitches that aren’t strikes.

“People are pitching him differently,’’ Ventura said. “There could be a few things going on there.’’

Abreu has only three homers in the last 36 days, but he’s still hitting for average. He’s batting .300 with four RBI over his last nine games and .359 with five home runs and 21 RBI in his last 37.

The Orioles combined for nine hits against Quintana (four runs, eight hits) and Daniel Webb, who gave up a homer to Nick Hundley in the seventh inning.

Abreu went through similar power slumps in Cuba, so he’s not in uncharted territory, although he has never played this many games now that the season is in mid-August.

“I could say everybody in baseball is bodily tired right now,’’ hitting coach Todd Steverson said. “This becomes the August and September grind. This is when you’re never really 100 percent. This is when your ability to stay mentally focused is tested.

“You’re going to go through cold stretches, and that’s where he’s at in terms of power. Where he flourishes is the ability to spread the ball all around the field. It’s not all or nothing. He still can come up and drive in the big run. He’s still the guy the other team doesn’t want to pitch to.’’

If he has enough left in the tank, there’s a home-run title to be won.

“I don’t even think about that right now,’’ Abreu said. “We still have awhile to go. To be honest with you, I didn’t come here to win home-run titles. I came here to try to help the White Sox win games.’’


Twitter: @CST_soxvan

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