TORONTO — You have to figure Jose Bautista will be begging Jose Abreu to participate in next month’s Home Run Derby after Friday night.
The White Sox cleanup man put on his own slugging clinic in a 5-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. Abreu hit two solo home runs to move back into a tie for the major league lead and the White Sox hit four homers in support of John Danks. Alexei Ramirez also snapped a month-long RBI-less streak with a two-run homer and Dayan Viciedo added one as the White Sox survived another shaky ninth inning by the bullpen to win for the second time in nine games on their three-city road trip.
“The Cubans played great tonight,” Danks said. “I’m glad (Abreu is) on my team. I’m glad I don’t have to face him. He’s a great teammate. He’s a heck of a ballplayer and I’m happy he’s here for a while.”
Earlier this week, Abreu said he’s honored but doesn’t want to take part in the July 14 Home Run Derby scheduled for Target Field. Though Bautista, the American League’s Derby captain, had heard those reports, he wants to catch up with Abreu in person to gauge his interest and perhaps encourage him. Bautista has the Cuban slugger on a “short list” of candidates and said it has been hard to ignore what Abreu has done this season.
And then came Friday.
Abreu broke up former Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey’s no-hitter in the fifth inning when he crushed a 3-2 knuckeball off the back of the second deck in left field for a solo homer, his 24th. Abreu’s blast not only snapped an 18-inning scoreless stretch for the White Sox, it also put them ahead 1-0, extended his hitting streak to 12 games and tied him with Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion for the major league lead in homers.
Three batters later, Viciedo launched a 1-1 fastball from Dickey over the right-field fence for his seventh homer and a 2-0 lead.
Abreu had more in store — the kind of effort that could lead to Bautista showering him with gifts to entice his participation.
Half an inning after Encarnacion regained the home run-lead with a solo homer — one of two off Danks in the sixth that tied the score at 2 — Abreu pulled even again with a drive to dead center off Dickey to make it 3-2. Baltimore’s Nelson Cruz also homered Friday to give him 25.
Abreu said he knows Bautista wants him on the team and didn’t rule out participation.
“I heard about it through a couple of guys,” Abreu said through a translator. “Encarnacion mentioned it to me. They were talking to me from the dugout about it. But I told Encarnacion right now that my concentration is on our team and I'm really not interested in talking about that. But you never know. We’ll have to see.”
Dickey is the fourth Cy Young-winning pitcher Abreu has homered off this season along with Tampa Bay’s David Price, Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw and Detroit’s Justin Verlander. Abreu has six homers against those pitchers with two each off Verlander and Dickey.
Now with four, Abreu also has tied Atlanta’s Bob Horner for the most multi-homer games in major league history through the first 67 games of a player’s career.
“He’s a good hitter, but you also see the power that’s there,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “When he hits it on the barrel, it just continues to go. It’s like helium balls that just continue to float.”
Ramirez then followed Abreu’s lead and snapped an RBI-less stretch that dated back to May 26. After Adam Dunn walked, Ramirez hit a 3-2 knuckleball off the left-field foul pole for a two-run shot to snap his streak at 114 plate appearances and give the White Sox a 5-2 lead.
The late surge made a winner of Danks, who was outstanding aside from the two late homers to Encarnacion and Dioner Navarro.
Danks didn’t walk any hitters and limited the first-place Blue Jays to two earned runs and five hits over six innings. He struck out two.
But all of it was almost lost in yet another difficult ninth inning.
After Javy Guerra and Zach Putnam struck out two apiece in scoreless innings, Jacob Petricka bailed the White Sox out of another Ronald Belisario created situation to close out the victory. Belisario gave up a pinch-hit solo homer to Colby Rasmus — one that drew Ventura out to the mound for a chat — and allowed two one-out singles to get the tying runs aboard. Adam Lind then reached against Eric Surkamp to load the bases on Conor Gillaspie’s error.
But Petricka got weak grounders off the bats of Jose Reyes — which drove in a run — and Melky Cabrera to preserve the victory.
“It was a thriller,” Ventura said. “The last inning is always the toughest, and any time you get guys on. Fortunately for us in the end there, Surkamp made a good pitch, and we didn’t make a play on it, and Jacob came in and did a great job. That’s the good news. There will probably be some mixing up of opportunities and jobs and we’ll go from there.”