Abreu stays steady in topsy-turvy season

With two more Sunday, White Sox rookie Jose Abreu has hit in 29 of his past 30 games. Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO – While a peaks-and-valleys season continued Sunday for the Chicago White Sox in an 11-7 defeat to the Houston Astros, Jose Abreu continued to ride high.

The rookie had two hits to extend his hitting streak to 11 games, while also continuing a run in which he has a hit in 29 of his past 30 games.

The last time Abreu didn’t record a hit was July 5 at home against the Seattle Mariners, unless somebody wants to count his 0-for-1 performance at the All-Star Game on Tuesday, when he played in the actual contest but declined an appearance in the Home Run Derby in order to maintain his level swing.

And the line drives keep coming hard and fast off Abreu’s bat, although he hasn’t hit a home run since before the break.

“Everybody has their own opinion on the home-run contest, so him not doing it is a personal decision,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Some guys do it and it doesn’t affect them at all, and he felt that it was going to take away from what he is doing here and it’s a mature response. There are other guys who did the same thing as well.”

Abreu prefers to keep things as far from complicated as possible. It’s all about the line drives, since he knows the pitches he gets his bat under ever so slightly have a good chance of leaving the park. He isn’t even worried about facing one new pitcher after another in his first tour of duty in the American League.

Abreu was asked if getting to know pitchers is helping him during his recent run of success.

“I really don’t know that,” he said through an interpreter. “I know that I do observe and I do watch a lot, but that’s about it. I don’t know whether that’s helping me or not. I just am totally concentrated on staying healthy physically and staying consistent with my work and routines so I can help the team continue to win.”

Adam Eaton has watched it all first-hand, often on base when Abreu delivers. Eaton is in the same position as Abreu when it comes to learning new pitchers in a new league, yet the leadoff man remains impressed with how his teammate has gone about things.

“He's a great player and I'm not surprised,” Eaton said. “He's battled some injuries early, I think that's what kind of prevented him [from hitting .300 so far].”

Abreu has shown the power and the run production, and if a .300 batting average is the final frontier, he’s approaching it quickly. His 2-for-5 Sunday got his average up to .293, up from .260 on June 14, which was the day before his 29-hits-in-30-games run started.

“It's funny, I talked to [White Sox manager of cultural development Lino Diaz] about it, and Lino has no doubts about it, [Abreu] will hit .300 in this league, and I don't think any of us do, either," Eaton said. "You throw him inside, he gets the barrel to it, he just hits it, flays it to right and then he does get the barrel to it and it goes 450 feet. He's a great hitter and I'm very blessed to be in front of him.”

Abreu is on pace to hit 47 home runs with 121 RBIs, and if he can also start to move his batting average past the .315 mark, those numbers -- plus an OPS of .963 that could rise, too -- will go down as one of the greatest rookie seasons in major league history.

He already has an 18-game hitting streak in the books in addition to his current 11-game run.

“It doesn’t surprise any of us that he has numbers like that,” Ventura said. “He just continues to play and he’s not worried about numbers and things like that. At the end of the year he’s probably going to look at them and see what it is, but he prepares every day and how he goes about his work is the most impressive part.”

Had Abreu signed elsewhere, maybe those numbers are directing a team toward a playoff berth, but in another impressive sign of maturity, he said isn’t concerned with what-ifs.

“No, I really don’t think about that,” he said. “My thoughts and everything is based on the White Sox. That’s the team that signed me, that’s the team I play for every day and that’s the only thing I think about.”