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Great moments in the heretofore innocuous base-stealing career of Jose Abreu

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Chicago White Sox v Chicago Cubs
Bated Breath: After a two-year hiatus from steals, Abreu gave the sold-out Wrigley rowdies what they came for—his fourth career SB.
Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

As Jose “Ruedas” Abreu prepares to base-steal his way deeper into the hearts of Chicago White Sox fans in 2018—raising a mischievous Belushi eyebrow to the notion of a 30-30 season, even—let’s take a look back at the storied, six-steals-in-nine-attempts career of the beloved first sacker.

Career Steal No. 1: July 10, 2014 at Boston Red Sox

Pitcher: Jon Lester

Catcher: David Ross

It is 81 degrees on a languid New England evening, and the stage is set for Abreu’s first career stolen base. He leads off the sixth inning vs. Jon Lester with a single, and after a deep fly out to center from Dayan Viciedo, Alexei Ramirez pushes Abreu to second with a seeing-eye single. With Paul Konerko down in the count 1-2, Abreu and Ramirez complete a double-steal, as PK whiffs.

Yes, Jose Abreu’s first career steal is of third base.

Moises Sierra pops out to end the threat. In the ninth, Conor Gillaspie ties the game with a pinch-hit homer off of Carmines closer Koji Uehara; the White Sox would lose on a pinch-hit single from Mike Carp in the 10th.

Career Steal No. 2: Aug. 31, 2014 vs. Detroit Tigers

Pitcher: Evan Reed

Catcher: Bryan Holaday

Abreu is chewing up the American League en route to his Rookie of the Year honors. Batting .320 on this sunny Chicago day, the DH decides to give the home fans a thrill, with his second career pilfer, and second in two months. But this stolen base has a darker backstory.

In the eighth, Phil Coke whiffs Adam Eaton, then surrenders a deep single to Yolmer Sanchez. Coke is yanked for Reed, who bothers to bury Abreu with a 1-2 count before hitting him. It is then that Abreu and Sanchez mastermind a plan of revenge; with the count full to Avisail Garcia, the runners break and slide in safely for a double steal, as Garcia whiffs. Gillaspie flies deep to center, and three outs later, the White Sox put a 6-2 win in the books.

Career Steal No. 3: Sept. 24, 2014 at Detroit Tigers

Pitcher: Justin Verlander

Catcher: Bryan Holaday

Abreu leads off the sixth inning of a scoreless game with a duck snort to right. And it is here where the battle of wits begins, Abreu dancing off of first base, Verlander forced to split his focus between the menacing baserunner and batter Gillaspie. With the count even at 2-2, Abreu breaks and so startles Holaday that he throws the ball through second base, allowing Abreu to trot to third with an extra base.

With the count full, Gillaspie pops out to short. With one out and a duck still on the pond, Garcia dribbles out to Nick Castellanos at third. Itching to score, Abreu finally gives the White Sox a 1-0 lead after Viciedo clouts a triple over Rajai Davis’ head in center.

The bounty would not last, as Chris Sale departed after four hits, one run, 10 Ks and 101 pitches over six innings, and Javy Guerra relieves to plate two in the seventh, Matt Lindstrom three in the eighth. The White Sox fall, 6-1.

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals
Almost Perfect: It took almost the entire 2014 season to finally catch Wheels Abreu stealing.
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Career Steal No. 4: July 25, 2017 at Chicago Cubs

Pitcher: John Lackey

Catcher: Willson Contreras

After Abreu’s two-year hiatus from thievery, a capacity crowd at Wrigley Field wonders if this, indeed, could be the day the slugger revs his motor again. But it is not mere basepath idleness that gets Abreu riled on this day, but bruises.

In the fifth, pitching with a 4-2 lead, a grumpy Lackey hits Abreu for the second time of the game, and revenge again is in the air: Abreu swipes second on the very next pitch. After Garcia grounds into the second out of the inning, Lackey hits both Matt Davidson and Yoan Moncada in an utter meltdown that home plate umpire Lance Barksdale somehow finds acceptable. Sacks packed, Tim Anderson grounds out, and the White Sox eventually fall, 7-2.

Career Steal No. 5: Sept. 15, 2017 at Detroit Tigers

Pitcher: Anibal Sanchez

Catcher: James McCann

Leading off a tie game in the sixth, Abreu taps a single to left. One out later, and with a full count on Nicky Delmonico, Abreu pounces for his second swipe of the season, as Delmonico is called out looking. Sandwiched around Abreu’s pilfer, Sanchez strikes out the side, and the Tigers go on to win, 3-2.

Career Steal No. 6: Sept. 19, 2017 at Houston Astros

Pitcher: Chris Devenski

Catcher: Brian McCann

In the top of the eighth, and down just 2-1 to the eventual world champs, Abreu attempts to rally the White Sox with his legs. With one out, the scrappy first sacker legs out a grounder to shortstop Carlos Correa, ruled as an error. With the count 2-0 on Delmonico, Abreu springs, and the tying run is in scoring position. It would stay there, as Delmonico and Davidson strike out around a Garcia intentional walk.

Undoubtedly, Abreu’s looming 30-30 season will pay great dividends for the White Sox, as well as for the slugger’s overall offensive numbers.

However, a word of caution: The White Sox are just 1-5 in games where Abreu steals a base, and he has notched five of his six career swipes on the road.

Green light in road blowouts for some easy pickings, perhaps, Ricky R.?