Abreu becoming a leader for White Sox

Abreu becoming a leader for White Sox

ST. PETERSBURG -- For the first time in Jose Abreu's highly accomplished career, the top White Sox offensive force has hit home runs in three straight games. That accomplishment was reached in the seventh inning of a 7-5 loss to the Rays on Friday night at Tropicana Field.

Abreu's numbers have been overpowering since joining the White Sox prior to the 2014 season, but his career nonetheless only has covered 200 games, so the back-to-back-to-back achievement is not surprising.

What was more startling to White Sox bench coach Mark Parent, who is filling in for manager Robin Ventura this weekend, was the pitch from Brandon Gomes that Abreu hit off the right-field foul pole with two outs.

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"He's hitting fastballs, hitting on his hands out to right field, line drives," Parent said. "Most guys are hitting that ball, nubbers back to the mound, because their bat shattered. But he gets his hands through there. He's so strong, it's unbelievable."

"I'm working every day and trying to hit the ball to the opposite field," said Abreu through interpreter and White Sox Spanish language broadcaster Billy Russo. "I'm feeling good right now. It was a good pitch. I just was able to hit it well."

Friday's game stood as a strange one for the White Sox (28-31). They had some slick defensive plays early from Conor Gillaspie and Adam Eaton, only to have their fundamentals get away from them in the field in the later innings.

John Danks was unhittable for the first two frames, but then the Rays started hitting balls where the White Sox fielders weren't over the next 3 1/3 innings. Trailing by four in the seventh with Abreu in the lineup, though, certainly doesn't look to be an insurmountable deficit.

This particular blast gives Abreu seven homers and 24 RBIs in his last 33 games, and he has hit safely in 29 of his past 34 contests. Abreu also has struck out just 10 times over his last 66 plate appearances.

Basically, Abreu always has been a very good hitter first, with immense power, and not just a power hitter. Another fact that hasn't changed with Abreu is his quiet move to a leadership role on this team, which really began during his rookie campaign.

In the sixth inning, Abreu missed a throw from Gordon Beckham on Nick Franklin's slow roller to third. That error contributed to the Rays' three-run frame, but Abreu took complete responsibility for the miscue postgame.

"It was my fault, completely my fault," Abreu said. "I just tried to open my legs to stretch too soon and I just missed it. It's completely my fault."

Those words held as thunderous of an impact as his line shot to right.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.