OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Less than two months into his career, Jose Abreu is already the guy the Chicago White Sox want at the plate when the game is on the line.
Abreu hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning, and the White Sox snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday.
“We realize what he is and how important he is to us,” manager Robin Ventura said. “When you get in situations like that you’re pretty glad he’s up there. That’s what he means to us. You always feel like you’re in a good spot if he’s up there with guys on.”
Gordon Beckham homered on the first pitch of the game for the White Sox, who rallied against Oakland’s bullpen to end a seven-game losing streak at the Coliseum.
John Jaso and Josh Donaldson hit solo homers off Andre Rienzo for the Athletics, who were in line for a season-best seventh straight victory before the bullpen meltdown in the eighth cost Tommy Milone a chance at a win.
Beckham and Conor Gillaspie started the rally with one-out singles against Fernando Abad (0-1), and Abreu greeted Luke Gregerson with a no-doubt drive to left field for his 15th home run of the season.
“He has ridiculous power,” Gillaspie said. “When he gets the ball up in the air like that it’s going to be tough for it not to leave. Hats off to him. The guy made a mistake and he took advantage of it.”
Abreu, a rookie slugger from Cuba, is the fourth player in major league history to hit 15 homers in his first 42 games, joining Wally Berger, Kevin Maas and Wally Joyner.
“I got the opportunity to hit a good pitch,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “All I was doing was trying to hit a ball in the air to bring the guy from third base. But I was able to get a good swing and a good pitch to hit.”
Gregerson was trying to make Abreu chase a pitch out of the strike zone but caught too much of the plate instead.
“You try to make him fish, which he definitely does,” Gregerson said. “I don’t think it was really a bad pitch. It was just something he was ready for. He was looking for it. We’ve been doing it to him the whole series, pound him in. It just stayed up a little too much. Any other day it could be a ground out to third base, we get a double play.”
Ronald Belisario (2-3) got four outs for the win and Matt Lindstrom pitched the ninth for his sixth save in nine chances.
Milone was in danger of losing his spot in the rotation before pitching eight scoreless innings against Washington last Friday. He followed that up with another strong performance, allowing one run and five hits in six innings. But he ended up with a no-decision because of Chicago’s late rally.
The bullpen has been the one spotty area so far for the A’s, with eight of the team’s 16 losses being credited to the relievers.
The teams traded leadoff home runs, with Beckham going deep for his second career leadoff homer and Jaso answering with a drive on a 2-0 pitch from Rienzo for his third.
Oakland went ahead when Donaldson led off the fourth with his ninth homer, a day after get his first day off of the season.
But those were the only hits the A’s could manage in 6 1-3 innings against Rienzo.
Milone got some help from his defense in the fifth. A perfectly executed relay from Yoenis Cespedes to Eric Sogard to Derek Norris caught Beckham trying to score from first on Gillaspie’s two-out double off the left-field wall.
NOTES: The last time both teams led off the game with homers was Aug. 13, 2013, when Seattle’s Brad Miller and Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist did it. ... Beckham became the first White Sox player to homer on the first pitch since Ray Durham did it twice in 2000. ... Oakland OF Coco Crisp missed his seventh straight game with a strained neck but could return Friday. ... Both teams are off Thursday. Chicago starts a three-game series in Houston on Friday, while the A’s open a nine-game road trip in Cleveland.