December 7, 2022

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Kopech's wacky line: 3 runs, 1 hit, 1 loss

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CHICAGO — Michael Kopech might never have a stranger pitching line, especially in a loss, than he did in Sunday’s 5-1 setback against the Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field.

The White Sox right-hander allowed three earned runs over six innings while striking out three and walking four, but he yielded only one hit. Kopech threw 91 pitches, but 41 of them came during New York’s three-run second inning. He retired the final 13 batters faced — and he didn’t allow a baserunner in any frame other than the second.

But with Nestor Cortes dealing against a still uneven White Sox offense, that brief rough stretch was enough to give the White Sox their third loss in four games against the Yankees and finish 2-4 on this homestand.

“I didn’t really have much of my stuff today, if anything,” Kopech said after falling to 0-1 with a 1.54 ERA on the season. “Those other innings, I was able to remain focused and throw to the target and execute as well as I could. I didn’t execute very well either, but I threw strikes and that goes a long way.

“Yeah, I mean, I competed with what I had. But it wasn’t much today.”

That second inning takes on a stranger look considering Kopech got two quick outs with Giancarlo Stanton lining out to right and Josh Donaldson lining out to left in the course of just nine pitches. The rest of the second encompassed 32 pitches, beginning with a six-pitch walk coaxed by Joey Gallo.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa followed with a single over shortstop Tim Anderson before Jose Trevino, Aaron Hicks and DJ LeMahieu drew consecutive free passes to force home two runs. A Kopech wild pitch brought home the third.

“I guess I just tried to get kind of cute and nibble a little bit,” Kopech said of the second. “And then, they had some good takes, and after that, I tried to get a little bit aggressive because I realized they weren’t. It didn’t pay off for me and I fell behind more guys. Kind of lost that inning on my own.”

“Kopech’s hard to score against,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He hasn’t given up much all season.”

Sixty-three of Kopech’s 91 pitches were four-seam fastballs, with a maximum velocity of 96.2 mph and an average of 93.6 mph, per Statcast. That average was down a bit from a season average of 95.2.

“It could just be feeling a little bit out of sync. I don’t know,” Kopech said of the dip. “To be honest with you, it wasn’t there, but I made due with what I had today.”

“Kopy did a great job, had a tough inning and battled,” White Sox left fielder AJ Pollock said. “Gave us some good innings and kept us in it. We just didn’t get to [Cortes]. He threw well. A combination of him throwing well and us probably not putting enough pressure on him.”

To Kopech’s credit, that wonky second inning didn’t turn into a short outing. He came through just like a seasoned starter, giving the White Sox (16-17) a viable chance to win and saving the bullpen in the midst of playing 17 games in 17 days.

In the process, Kopech became the sixth White Sox pitcher in franchise history to suffer a loss despite allowing one hit or fewer over at least six innings. He was the first to do so since since Carlos Rodón on May 26, 2021, vs. St. Louis (one hit and 10 strikeouts in six innings of a 4-0 loss).

As a team, the White Sox allowed just two hits, with Joey Gallo launching a two-run homer in the ninth, marking their first loss while allowing two hits or fewer since April 8, 2018, vs. Detroit (1-0 loss, two hits).

Kopech has held opponents to three hits or fewer in six of his seven starts, two or fewer in four and one or fewer in two.

“I’m pleased with going six innings and limiting the damage to what it was considering how bad the second was,” Kopech said. “But at the end of the day … in a ballgame like that, where Cortes is going to go out there and pitch a great game, I have to make sure I limit that to a lot less than what I did today.”

“He has high standards, and I said just, ‘You’ve got to keep competing,’” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “Take it one hitter at a time and get back into it, and he did. He deserves all the credit. Fixed it, mostly because he didn’t give in, didn’t give up. He didn’t say ‘It’s not my day.’ He held them to three. We had a chance all game.”

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