Breaking down Jose Abreu’s cycle

For the seventh time this season, a big leaguer hit for the cycle. This time it was Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu on Saturday night in a 13-1 drubbing of the San Francisco Giants. A couple of things struck me as I watched Abreu’s four hits, but mostly I came to the realize that he is a big, strong dude.

Abreu started his big night with a bang. With two outs in the bottom of the first inning, the right-handed Abreu sent a fly ball to deep right field. The baseball carried in the Chicago sky and sailed over the fence for a solo home run. The thing that got my attention is that he didn’t square up the pitch. Abreu got a little bit under the baseball, but his strength pushed the ball over the fence.

In the bottom of the third inning, again with two outs, Abreu shot a line drive down the third base line for a double. This was nothing more than a perfect piece of hitting by Abreu. Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija hung an off-speed pitch belt-high over the plate, Abreu took advantage and was 2-for-2 on the night.

With nobody out, nobody and two runs already scored in the seventh, Giants reliever Josh Osich dropped a backdoor curve (a breaking ball thrown from a lefty to a righty that crosses the outside corner of the plate) around Abreu’s knees. He reached his bat across the plate and poked the ball over the outstretched glove of shortstop Orlando Calixte to the outfield grass for a single. Abreu really did a good job getting the bat head down in the zone so he could elevate the ball rather than pound it into the ground. His swing almost looked like he scooped the ball out of the bottom part of the strike zone.

The triple is always the funny part of the cycle to me. It’s the hardest part to complete, and a lot of these guys who hit for the cycle aren’t guys who are hitting triples. Abreu, for instance, didn’t do anything out of the ordinary to get a triple than he would to get an everyday double. In the bottom of the eighth, with two men on, Abreu hit a line drive to the gap in right-center field, a ball that would normally be taken as a stand-up double. Instead, Abreu broke hard out of the batter’s box on contact with a triple in his sites. Going hard all the way, he barely stretched the double into a triple as he slid safely into third just ahead of the throw.

My biggest takeaway here? If more guys wanted triples, they would end up on third if they wanted to make the effort out of the box. Of course, you don’t want to make the first or third out at third base, so trotting into second is the safest bet.

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