On Saturday, Jose Abreu clubbed his 29th home run, helping to power the White Sox past the Indians and giving the 27-year-old rookie the Major League lead in dingers yet again.
In the fourth inning, following an Alexi Ramirez walk -- and Ramirez's departure from the game due to back stiffness -- Abreu connected for Chicago's first hit of the day to break a scoreless tie. Cleveland starter Zack McCallister hung a first-pitch slider, and it wound up in the Progressive Field visitors bullpen; via ESPN Home Run tracker, the shot measured just 339 feet, making it Abreu's shortest of the year, but it still counted:
Aided by a two-run double by Gordon Beckham and five shutout innings from starter Scott Carroll (who also left the game due to lower back stiffness) the Sox prevailed 6-2.
Abreu's home run broke a tie with Nelson Cruz for the major league lead despite missing 15 games due to tendonitis in his left ankle. He led Cruz 15-12 when he went on the disabled list but trailed 20-15 by the time he came off on June 2. Starting with a long ball off Clayton Kershaw in his first game back -- one of just five the Dodgers ace has allowed all year -- he has outhomered his new rival 14-8 since returning, though he hasn't had the lead for more than a day in that span.
Abreu is hitting .287/.338/.631, with his slugging percentage leading the league as well. He won't catch up to the 37 homers Chris Davis hit before last year's All-Star break, but he's heading into interesting territory. Already, he's second in franchise history for homers by a rookie; the record is 35, set by Ron Kittle in 1983. With one more homer, he'll climb into a tie for 21st among all rookies, matching what Mike Trout did in 2012. With five more homers, he'll claim a share of a top 10 spot:
|Ron Kittle||35||1983||White Sox|
|Walt Dropo||34||1950||Red Sox|
If Abreu manages to match McGwire, he'll also be matching the White Sox single-season leader, Albert Belle, who hit 49 homers in 1998. At his current pace of one homer for every 11.93 plate appearances and 4.27 plate appearances per game, he’s on pace for 53 this year even with his missed time -- a total that would match Davis’ output last year.
While Abreu is headed to Minneapolis for this year's All-Star Game, he won't participate in the Home Run Derby. His lack of enthusiasm for the competition led AL team captain Jose Bautista (who has 17 homers) to look elsewhere, tabbing the defending champion Yoenis Cespedes (14) as well as Josh Donaldson (20), Brian Dozier (16) and Adam Jones (16) to join him.
Particularly with Cespedes and fellow Cuban defector Yasiel Puig participating on the NL side, it's too bad Abreu not to take his cuts, but he’s entitled to save his homers for when they count.