The Red Sox teed off against the Houston Astros on Thursday afternoon, collecting 24 hits en route to a lopsided 17-1 victory at Minute Maid Park.
It was a seemingly endless deluge of base knocks for the Sox, who recorded their most hits in a single contest since connecting on 26 hits against the Mariners back on August 15, 2015.
The first one that rookie Wilyer Abreu bashed on Thursday will be one that he’ll never forget.
Playing in just his third game (and second start) up in the big leagues, the 24-year-old Abreu opened the floodgates for his team in the top of the second inning.
With Pablo Reyes on at first base and Boston already up 1-0, Abreu took an inside fastball from Houston starter J.P. France and promptly golfed it into right field. France’s heater left the barrel of Abreu’s bat at 108.7 miles per hour and traveled 431 feet.
By the time Abreu’s moonshot landed in the second set of bleachers in Houston, the Red Sox were off and running with a 3-0 lead.
“As soon as I hit the ball I knew it was gone,” Abreu told MassLive.com’s Chris Smith through interpreter Carlos Villoria Benítez. “I can’t even put into words how I felt that moment. I can’t put into words how I feel right now. So it was an amazing experience, an amazing feeling. And I’m happy it happened today.”
Abreu’s first career home run in the big leagues was an emphatic stamp on Boston’s 17-run salvo on Thursday. But it was far from the rookie outfielder’s only contribution.
By the time the dust settled in the bottom of the ninth, Abreu closed out the win with a 4-for-5 showing at the plate with his two-run shot, a double and four RBI.
An impromptu call-up from Triple-A Worcester following a lingering toe injury for Jarren Duran, Abreu has not missed a step against MLB pitching. In his three games, Abreu is batting .500 (6-for-12) with three extra-base hits and five RBI.
“He’s a good hitter, man,” Cora told Smith about Abreu’s skillset. “He got a pitch in the zone and hit it that way. It was huge. He kept putting good at-bats, even at the end. It’s just like relentless. When you dominate the strike zone, good things are going to happen and that’s what he does.”
Of course, Abreu’s impressive stat line is destined to fall back to the mean over time. But Boston’s No. 17th-ranked prospect (per MLB.com) also isn’t exactly a flash-in-the-pan find, given the eye-popping numbers he’s accumulated down in Triple-A Worcester.
One of the two prospects (alongside Enmanuel Valdez) that the Red Sox acquired from the Astros last July in exchange for catcher Christian Vazquez, Abreu earned his call-up from the WooSox after slashing .424/.528/.949 with nine home runs and 29 RBIs in August.
“Obviously the mood last year when we got him, it was a lot different than now,” Cora said. “Him and Valdey, they are good offensive players. And we knew when we got them that they dominate the strike zone, they’ve got pop. It’s just a matter of keep getting at-bats.
“[The Astros] have a great hitting program over there. And that’s what they teach their kids: dominate the strike zone. And so far, it’s been refreshing. It’s been good. Let’s see how many at-bats we can get him.”
Given Duran’s injury and Abreu’s ability to play all three positions in the outfield, more at-bats should be on the way for the rookie as Boston heads back to Fenway Park to take on Mookie Betts and the Dodgers.
“I feel happy to be able to help the team,” Abreu said, via Benítez. “This was an amazing experience for me and an amazing series for me as well. So for me to be able to help the team win, it’s amazing.”
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