DETROIT — What stood out most about right-hander Michael Kopech’s first major-league victory, in his first start on the road, was his poise.
At age 22, Kopech pitched six innings of one-run ball in the White Sox’ 7-2 victory over the Tigers on Sunday at Comerica Park, -getting it done without his best stuff and after an out-of-routine warmup because of a pregame jersey retirement ceremony for Tigers Hall of Famer Alan Trammell. Kopech also shook off Mikie Mahtook’s hot comebacker off his leg in the second inning.
There was the bigger issue of Kopech’s having to answer questions Thursday and Friday about offensive tweets he had deleted, a major cause of personal angst for the Sox’ top pitching prospect. That didn’t affect him Sunday, Kopech said.
“No, I have a routine, and I’m going to stick to it,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that I had some stuff come up that was off the field, but as long as I prepare the way I always do, I’ll be fine.’’
Kopech breezed through all of the above, after his two-inning, rain-shortened outing in his debut against the Twins on Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field with a gritty performance. He allowed a run in a shaky sixth inning, getting out of it with a bases-loaded 6-4-3 double play by Ronny Rodriguez after opening with five scoreless innings. Kopech struck out four, walked none, hit two batters and gave up seven hits.
“That was awesome. I was pumped up about that,’’ Kopech said of the double play.
And that was it for him after 86 pitches, 61 for strikes and 10 for swings and misses. Leading 7-1, manager Rick Renteria went to his bullpen.
“The sixth inning [after a perfect fifth] was a long one for him, and then we were in there [batting in a two-run seventh] for a little while,’’ Renteria said.
“In our thoughts, he had a nice outing. Get him out and let the rest of the guys do what they did.”
Kopech, who hit Nicholas Castellanos and Mahtook with pitches when he loaded the bases in the fourth, hasn’t walked a batter in August between Class AAA Charlotte and his eight innings with the Sox.
His takeaway from Sunday? Knowing his electric assortment of pitches will play in the majors even when not at their best.
“It sounds silly to say that in my second start in the big leagues I didn’t have my best stuff, but I didn’t have my best stuff today,’’ Kopech said. “Had to grind through it and fortunate to know that when I do have to get through it, I have the stuff to get big-league hitters out.”
Castellanos and Victor Martinez doubled off the center- and right-field wall, respectively, to open the sixth and produce the Tigers’ first run. There were two more singles, but no more damage because of the DP.
“My velocity was down a little today. My breaking ball wasn’t that great and I had a little bit of a problem which command of my changeup,’’ Kopech said, “but I was still able to throw strikes and that’s what I did well tonight. I can take that to my next one.’’
That would be Friday at home against the Red Sox, the organization that traded him in the Chris Sale deal. When Kopech pitched at home Tuesday, the atmosphere was abuzz with anticipation.
“I feel like I had much anxiety in the first one, much more excitement,’’ Kopech said, “just because it’s your home crowd and they’re cheering for you. Here, even though it’s just about sold out I felt calm, comfortable, relaxed.’’