DETROIT — In this key season of development for three young White Sox starting pitchers, right-hander Reynaldo Lopez has separated himself from the pack, and it’s not even close.
Carson Fulmer, the Sox’ first-round draft pick in 2015 (eighth overall), was demoted to Class AAA Charlotte last week.
Lucas Giolito owns a 7.53 ERA through 10 starts and is leading the league with 37 walks against 27 strikeouts. Giolito was shelled in the second inning in his most recent start Thursday.
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Lopez, on the other hand, looked the part of a top-of-the-rotation starter once again Friday, holding the Tigers to two runs in seven innings. He allowed two earned runs in the fourth inning on a wild pitch and an infield out but finished strong, recording three strikeouts while allowing five hits and three walks.
But as it often goes for the struggling Sox, this one got away. Former Tigers right-hander Bruce Rondon was roughed up for three runs on a pair of doubles and a single in the eighth inning in a 5-4 loss.
Lopez, who was 10th in the American League in ERA (2.98 ERA) going into the game, saw it fall to 2.93. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in eight of his 10 starts.
“It was a really solid outing for me,’’ Lopez said. “I felt strong. There were some hits there, but nothing serious. I’m happy with the way it went.’’
After allowing six runs in two innings at Pittsburgh on May 15, manager Rick Renteria sent a message to Lopez, questioning his focus.
When he followed with eight scoreless innings in his next start against the Rangers at home, Renteria had nothing but praise.
“When he has that sense of urgency he seems to pitch much better,’’ Renteria said.
“And he’s also started like that and picked it up in the middle of the game.’’
Lopez has staying power because his mid to upper 90s fastball isn’t losing its zip as the game goes along. And he features a plus slider and changeup, the latter his best offering of the night, he said.
“The hitters tried to get into it but they couldn’t,” Lopez said.
Going into the game, his .111 average-against the third time through the order was the lowest in the majors.
“His stuff doesn’t waver,’’ Renteria said.
“I don’t think his stuff is falling off as much as it might for other pitchers.’’
Lopez threw 96 pitches but “was gassed” after seven innings, Renteria said. After the Tigers cut the lead to 3-2 in the fourth, Lopez worked out of trouble in the sixth and faced the minimum in the fifth and seventh innings.
“I was able to keep my emotions under control and keep the game under control,’’ he said.
The Sox (15-33) led 2-0 in the first against right-hander Mike Fiers on doubles by Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu and a single by Tim Anderson, who had three hits including his eighth home run. Trayce Thompson’s RBI single in the fourth made it 3-0.
With the Sox leading 4-2 in the eighth, the Tigers rallied for three runs, capped by Jeimer Candelario’s bloop go-ahead single between Abreu and Moncada on the right side of a drawn-in infield. It was the Tigers’ first lead.
“It’s difficult to digest,’’ said Lopez, who has one win. “Games like this, when you are ahead and for whatever reason — you don’t get the win. We’re all trying to help this team to win games. It’s tough. But we have to stick with it and move on to tomorrow.’’
“Tough game for us,’’ Renteria said. “We had it all the way. Lopey threw the ball great again, another tremendous outing.’’
While losses are becoming the norm, so are strong outings from Lopez.
“We expect that this is what he will ultimately be,’’ Lopez said. “Time will start to dictate, but you’re getting some good indicators here the way he’s been throwing. He’s going to be pretty good.’’