The White Sox are looking for feel-good stories as their season nears its end. And with his recent performances, right-hander Reynaldo Lopez is emerging as one of the positives.
Lopez threw six scoreless innings, struck out 10 and allowed only two hits in the Sox’ 1-0 loss Sunday to the Angels. The Sox were swept and have lost five in a row, but Lopez stood out as a bright spot. He has a 1.43 ERA, 29 strikeouts and a .165 opponents’ batting average in his last four starts and can enter the offseason on an upswing.
That could mean a lot for Lopez.
“You feel confident that you’re leaving the season knowing that you’ve done what you can to put yourself in a better position to give your club an opportunity to win ballgames, and you’re feeling good about it and trusting what you have in your arsenal,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He has continued to work and continues to improve. Good for him, good for us.”
Lopez, 24, who could have up to four starts left, has recovered from a July 6-Aug. 19 stretch in which he had a 7.17 ERA and allowed 49 hits in 42‰ innings. Renteria said Lopez recently has looked “at least” as good as he did during his earlier high points, which would be an encouraging development for a young pitcher working through his first full major-league season.
“Today, there was just a really good look about him,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘He was very calm, very focused. He was trusting what he was capable of doing with all the pitches he had.”
Lopez, who had a great fastball against the Angels, credited an angle in which his arm stays closer for the improved heater. If he’s consistent with the angle, it also helps other pitches, such as his changeup.
“That was the case today,” Lopez said. “If you’re able to stick with that arm angle for the whole game, you’re going to be more effective with all your pitches.”
Lopez’s stuff has never been in question, but there were concerns about his focus. Welington Castillo, who has caught Lopez’s last two starts, hasn’t seen that issue arise.
“We talked before he came out, and he had a really good idea of what he wanted to do,’’ Castillo said. ‘‘I think his focus is there, and I believe in him. I believe in all my pitchers. When he can control his focus, I think he’s going to be good.”
Since the beginning of the year, Castillo has seen other signs of progress.
“The confidence Lopez has on the fastball and on any pitch in any count, that’s big for him,” Castillo said. “Up, downhill, he’s getting more life on the fastball and a better angle on the fastball and the other pitches, too.”
The Sox know they won’t have Michael Kopech until 2020, and Lucas Giolito’s progress has been stunted by control problems, but at least Lopez’s late resurgence gives them something to look forward to for 2019.
“I’m feeling good; I feel strong,” Lopez said. “My mindset in every outing is to go at least six. If I can go more, that’s even better. Go at least six innings and try to finish strong.”