Manager Rick Renteria has no doubt Reynaldo Lopez can develop into an ace for the White Sox.
But the talented 24-year-old still needs to fine-tune his skills in order to establish himself among baseball’s better pitchers. His fastball, changeup and learning curve all were on display Friday night as the Sox lost 4-3 to the Tigers.
Lopez surrendered nine hits — one shy of his season high — and hit a batter but persevered through six innings to pick up a quality start. He allowed three runs, walking none and striking out three before exiting at 97 pitches.
“It was a battle,” Lopez said through a team interpreter. “I think I gave the team a chance to compete and to be in the game. I felt pretty good because I was able to manage through the troubles that I had and complete six innings.”
A three-run homer by Omar Narvaez in the sixth erased a 3-0 deficit for the Sox and energized a “Mullet Night” crowd of 22,813. The Tigers scored a run in the eighth off reliever Juan Minaya (0-1) to regain the lead.
Regardless of the result, the Sox have high hopes for Lopez, who recorded his 10th quality start in 14 outings this season.
“Right now, he’s scratching at the surface of what he can be,” Renteria said. “He’s got the makeup. I think his mound presence when he goes out there — at the beginning of the season, we would have moments where he would hit or miss in terms of what we thought his intensity level was like before the start of a game. But he’s been much more focused and committed to what he’s going to be able to do in terms of attacking the opponent.”
Lopez said he took pride in his consistency.
“Those words make me feel proud, especially coming from Ricky,” he said.
For much of the game, the Sox provided Lopez no run support. Narvaez changed that narrative with one swing as he lofted a pitch down the right-field line for his first homer since last Sept. 2.
Tigers starting pitcher Mike Fiers plunked Tim Anderson in the back with the next pitch. Anderson angrily flipped his bat toward the Sox’ dugout and traded words with Fiers as he walked down the first-base line. Sox players emerged briefly from the dugout before calm was restored.
Renteria said he likes the spirit of his team, which has won or split each of its first four series in June.
“They’re grinding,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you learn a lot about yourself when you’re going bad, and it’s surviving that little tumble that’s going to share with you what the character is of these guys.”
The Tigers put runners on second and third with one out in the eighth when Victor Reyes hit a ground ball to first base. Jose Abreu fielded the ball but briefly bobbled it before throwing home, where John Hicks beat the tag.
The Sox loaded the bases with one out in the eighth but failed to capitalize with Charlie Tilson and Adam Engel at the plate.
“That was our chance to score a couple runs,” Renteria said. “That was the bottom line. That was going to be the window, as far as I saw it.”