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updated: 4/26/2014 1:12 AM

Grand finish to crazy night for White Sox

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  • Jose Abreu celebrates as he rounds the bases after hitting a grand slam to lift the White Sox over Tampa Bay on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

      Jose Abreu celebrates as he rounds the bases after hitting a grand slam to lift the White Sox over Tampa Bay on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
    Associated Press

  • Jose Abreu hits a grand slam against the Rays in the ninth inning. It was Abreu's second home run of the night, and he finished with 6 RBI.

      Jose Abreu hits a grand slam against the Rays in the ninth inning. It was Abreu's second home run of the night, and he finished with 6 RBI.
    Associated Press

 
 

Jose Abreu crossed paths with Albert Pujols in spring training, and he still remembers the conversation.

"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 late Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field. "He said, 'Don't worry about that. Things will come.'

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"So I wasn't trying to hit them. They have just happened to be here and once again I just have to thank God."

In Friday night's 9-6 victory over Tampa Bay, Abreu hit 2 more home runs.

The first was a 2-run shot off Rays starter Chris Archer in the third inning, Abreu's eighth of the season. That tied him with Pujols, Carlos Delgado and Kent Hrbek for the most in major-league history by a rookie in April.

The second was the real biggie -- a game-winning grand slam off Tampa Bay closer Grant Balfour with two outs in the ninth. Abreu lasered an 0-1 pitch over the right-field fence to rally the White Sox back from a tough pitching night that featured 11 walks, 5 by Matt Joyce.

When he touched the plate and was mobbed by his teammates, Abreu was the all-time rookie home run leader for April. His 27 RBI in the opening month tie him with Pujols for the major-league rookie record.

"This opportunity to help the team, these are the things God gives you to be able to help the team, so I definitely enjoy these moments," Abreu said.

Before the animated Balfour served up Abreu's grand slam, he walked Konerko and had words for the Sox' captain as he trotted to first base. Konerko barked back at Balfour, and the benches nearly cleared.

"I know his thing is after every pitch he likes to get the ball, likes to stare at you," Konerko said. "That's fine, that's his thing, no big deal. You know that's what he likes to do. After I walked, he's close to me, eye contact was made, and I started running down the line and I heard yelling.

"I don't know what he was yelling about it. I was just trying to make sure it wasn't towards my direction. That's really it. I think he was probably yelling at himself to get going or get better or whatever. When someone's that close yelling, you want to find out why."

Both players calmed down, and that turned the spotlight on Abreu after Adam Eaton kept the inning alive by hustling down the line and beating out a potential double play.

"It's amazing," Eaton said. "You feel like the whole place could kind of feel it. When (Abreu) got up, it was like 'Uh oh, something great is going to happen.'"

Great things have been happening all month for Abreu, and Friday was just the latest chapter.

"He's a beast," Konerko said. "He's big and strong, but he's even a better hitter than how big and strong he is. He's got a plan up there. I think calling him a rookie, that's what he is as far as time, but I don't look at him as a rookie.

"This guy's 27, he's played at a high level of baseball in the WBC and other places around the world. He's done a lot this first month. He's shown how good he is in a lot of different ways."

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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