MINNEAPOLIS — Jose Abreu, who plays through everything, thought he might not be able to play through this one.
“I thought it was fractured,” Abreu said of his left knee, which was hit on the side by a pitch in the White Sox’ game against the Mariners on June 27.
Abreu hit the ground, pounding the grass in pain.
“My leg went numb,” he said.
Fans expected the worst — it has been that kind of year for injuries — but two days later, Abreu was in the lineup. It’s the Abreu way.
Play through everything.
“My family,” he said via a translator, explaining what motivates him to play hurt. “They are my strength. I come here every day here to do my best and to honor them, and I know they have my back — they support me. That’s why I come here every day to play. It doesn’t matter if I’m in pain or not, soreness or not, I have to be there for them. My mom, my wife, my sons, they are my everything.”
The 2020 American League MVP did miss the Sox’ last series in Minnesota after a violent collision with the Royals’ Hunter Dozier near the first-base line. He has missed six games after playing all 60 last season and 159 of 162 in 2019.
After batting .182/.265/.307 with two homers in June, Abreu is 9-for-26 with two homers and nine RBI in the first six games of July. He collected his 63rd RBI — which ranks fourth in the AL, nine behind RBI Rafael Devers — with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly in the Sox’ 4-1 win over the Twins on Tuesday night. He’s aiming to be the first player since Cecil Fielder (1990-92) to lead the AL in RBI three straight years.
Having had his first taste of a winning season and the postseason last year, Abreu is soaking in first place.
“Winning is one of the sweetest things that you can have as an athlete,” he said.
This was one of the sweetest wins of the season for the Sox, who learned before the game that catcher Yasmani Grandal would be lost to injury for at least a month. Zack Collins, the new starting catcher, drove in the first two runs with a single, the only hit against Twins starter Jose Berrios (7-3), and later doubled and scored on Adam Eaton’s single in the eighth before Abreu’s sacrifice fly.
“I’ve been ready for it,” Collins said of his elevated role.
Michael Kopech pitched a scoreless seventh, and a well-rested Liam Hendriks struck out four in two perfect innings for his 22nd save.
Hendriks raised his arms after defensive replacement Billy Hamilton made a running catch near the wall, sliding head-first into a rained-soaked warning track.
“That might be the top one, to be honest with you,” Hamilton said when asked where the catch ranked among plays he has made in his career.
Carlos Rodon (7-3, 2.31 ERA) gave the Sox another strong outing in his last start before the All-Star Game next week, throwing six innings of one-run ball and finishing with a flurry of 99 and 100 mph pitches. The Sox have held their spot atop the AL Central despite an onslaught of injuries.
“You have to just keep moving forward,” Abreu said.
Rodon struck out eight and didn’t allow a walk. The only run against him came on Alex Kirilloff’s single in the sixth. That followed a single by Luis Arraez that glanced off Rodon’s glove and a ball that center fielder Brian Goodwin lost in a misty sky, falling for another single.
Rodon struck out Ryan Jeffers and Max Kepler to end his outing, limiting the Twins’ damage to a run.
“He can rise to the occasion and make clutch pitches,” manager Tony La Russa said.
The Sox snapped a three-game losing streak. As Abreu. 34, says, winning trumps everything.
“That’s what you work for,” he said. “It’s something I don’t know how to describe. If you are winning, it doesn’t matter. There’s no age that can stop it, there’s no pain. It’s nothing. You’re winning.”