Relieved Abreu ends homer drought

Relieved Abreu ends homer drought

ANAHEIM -- Rounding third base and greeting coach Dino Ebel, having just launched his first home run in an Angels uniform on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium, Bobby Abreu released a visible expression of joy in a one-word form: "Whew!"

"That was a big relief," Abreu said before Wednesday night's series finale, the White Sox looking for a three-game sweep behind Gavin Floyd. "It was a long time, almost two months.

"It was getting crazy. I was hitting the ball hard, feeling good at the plate, but I wasn't getting enough lift. Nothing was going out. I had one ball here that I crushed to right-center that was caught, and then I tripled off the wall at Dodger Stadium [on Sunday].

"I knew I was getting close. It was just a matter of time before I would finally get it. When you break it down, the rest will come. The hard part is getting that first one."

Abreu, who ended a drought covering 148 at-bats and 41 games when he unloaded against former Angels right-hander Bartolo Colon, has been among the game's best throughout his career in working counts and getting on base. That hasn't changed. His .407 on-base percentage ranks ninth in the American League -- one notch ahead of teammate Torii Hunter, at .402.

But Abreu also knows how to go deep. He has hit 20 or more homers in eight of the past 10 seasons. He has scored 100 or more runs eight times and driven in at least 100 runs in six seasons.

A career .300 hitter in 6,642 at-bats, Abreu is batting .302 this season. He has 27 walks in 42 games with only 17 strikeouts, and he is perfect on the bases: 15 for 15 in steals.

"He's one of the best table-setters in our league," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Anyone hitting behind Bobby is going to have an opportunity to drive in runs."

The man hitting in front of Abreu, Chone Figgins, has been on fire with a 14-game hitting streak, matching his career high and lifting his average to .299.

Hunter, with a team-high 40 RBIs, has been the primary beneficiary of the leg work of Figgins and Abreu, with Kendry Morales (28 RBIs) also flourishing. Vladimir Guerrero, rounding into shape in the designated-hitter spot, figures to start cashing in any day now after a 1-for-8 start in his return to the lineup after missing 35 games.

"Bobby's approach highlights things a lot of our younger players need to grasp," Scioscia said. "Plate discipline is the next hurdle for some of our players. What Bobby brings is a nice tutorial for our younger players."

Abreu, according to Figgins, is always open to extending a word of advice or encouragement.

"Bobby's very smart," Figgins said. "He's emphasizing an approach I've been trying to have. He loves the game, the mental part, and you can learn by listening to him or watching him. Having a locker next to his is great for me.

"I've been lucky. Bobby's a lot like Garret Anderson, who used to be over here. They're not going to be real vocal, like Torii [Hunter]. But you can learn a lot if you're paying attention."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.