The touted rookie from Cuba hit a game-winning grand slam with two outs in the ninth inning for his second home run of the night, rallying the Chicago White Sox past the Tampa Bay Rays 9-6 on Friday.
Evan Longoria’s two-run homer in the top of the ninth put Tampa Bay ahead 6-4, but the White Sox weren’t done. Abreu’s drive off closer Grant Balfour (0-1) won it after Chicago pitchers combined for 11 walks.
Abreu, who signed a $68 million, six-year contract in the offseason, finished with three hits and six RBIs. He became the first rookie in major league history to hit nine home runs by the end of April.
“I really didn’t have any expectations. As a matter of fact, I was talking to Albert Pujols during spring training and he told me, ‘Hey, don’t worry about hitting the home runs early in the season since it’s your first season and all that,’” Abreu said through a translator. “So I wasn’t trying to hit them - they have just happened.”
“I don’t know. I know his thing after every pitch, he comes way in. Likes to get the ball, likes to stare at you, stare at the hitter,” Konerko said. “That’s fine, no big deal. You know that’s what he likes to do. After I walked there, he is close to me, eye contact was made and I start to run down the line and I heard yelling. I don’t know what he was yelling about. I was just trying to make sure it wasn’t toward my direction. That’s really it. I think he was probably yelling at himself to get going or get better. When someone that close is yelling, you want to find out why.”
“I’m angry at myself, so if he wants to yell at me, whatever. I wasn’t yelling at him. I was frustrated by the fact I missed by 6 feet back there,” Balfour said. “This is a frustrating night for me. I know I’m better than that. So I’ll come back tomorrow and turn the page. If I get an opportunity, go out there and get it done.”
Adam Eaton hit a grounder to second base, but Tampa Bay was unable to turn the double play after getting a force at second. Rays manager Joe Maddon challenged the call, but Eaton clearly beat the throw to first and the ruling was upheld on replay.
“Pretty impressive. Really a big, strong fella with a controlled attitude at the plate that’s not a wild swinger. You have to make good pitches to him or he’s going to hurt you like he did tonight,” Maddon said. “It’s not fun when that happens, but I’m still going to go out for my Guinness tonight regardless.”
Matt Joyce drew his team-record fifth walk of the game leading off the ninth against White Sox reliever Matt Lindstrom (2-1). Longoria followed with his third home run of the season to center to break a 4-all tie.
The Rays tied a club mark by drawing 11 walks.