Reigning American League MVP Jose Abreu is batting just .150 with nine strikeouts in six home games this season as the Chicago White Sox face the visiting Texas Rangers.
With Chicago embarking on a nine-game homestand, the club hopes Abreu’s feats to cap a five-game road trip traveled along, too.
Abreu was 3-for-4 with two home runs and three RBIs in an 8-5 victory at Cleveland on Tuesday, the team’s most recent contest after weather postponed play Wednesday and Thursday’s scheduled day off.
Should Abreu’s surge spark the rest of the White Sox as they hover at .500, few would be surprised.
“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,” Chicago manager Tony La Russa said. “There’s a lot of happiness because of the big fella.”
Dane Dunning once was able to attest. The right-hander thrived as a rookie for the White Sox in 2020, going 2-0 with a 3.97 ERA in seven starts, with 35 strikeouts and just 13 walks in 34 innings.
Chicago traded Dunning in the offseason as part of a package that returned righty Lance Lynn, and now Dunning gets the start against his former team in the series opener.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Dunning said. “I know practically every person on that team. It’s going to be really cool being able to throw (to) my old buddies, old teammates.”
Dunning (1-0, 0.60 ERA) has limited opponents to one run in three starts covering 15 innings this season. He took a no-decision Saturday after scattering five hits and five strikeouts in six shutout innings against the Baltimore Orioles.
“I feel like the way I attack hitters and the way I perceive each at-bat (boosts my effectiveness),” Dunning said. “For the most part, starting off the game, I’ll start working two-thirds of the plate. And from there, depending on if I’m effectively locating my pitches, I’ll expand a little bit more here and there.”
Righty Dylan Cease (0-0, 3.86 ERA) is expected to get the start for the White Sox. Cease has worked 4 2/3 innings in each of his three starts to open 2021 while throwing no more than 92 pitches. He defeated the Rangers in his lone career start against them in August 2019, allowing three runs and four hits in six innings with one walk and nine strikeouts.
Just like the Rangers, the White Sox have won three of four. Although not every series has gone Chicago’s way, La Russa believes the team’s early spate of close games will boost its young relief corps as the season progresses.
“It will pay off big dividends when we get to the second half of the season,” La Russa said. “We’re actually telling them how much pressure there is because it’s not like, ‘Hey, whatever happens, happens.’ I think they have to recognize games mean something. It’s been good, and even when it may have been not a good result, we’re really pleased with what we see.”
–Field Level Media