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For second time in 2 home starts, White Sox’ Michael Kopech shines before delay

Raindrops keep falling on Michael Kopech’s head.

For the second time in two starts at Guaranteed Rate Field, White Sox fans were unable to see Kopech finish what he started. A two-hour, nine-minute rain delay prompted the right-hander’s exit after three scoreless innings Friday against the Red Sox.

That was an improvement from Kopech’s home debut in which he pitched two innings before storms moved in.

“He knows, like all of them know, that there are high expectations,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Everybody expects a lot out of them. But we talk a lot about just controlling the things you can control.”

Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Michael Kopech throws against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Michael Kopech throws against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) ORG XMIT: OTKNH102

The weather is not one of those things.

The White Sox, who won 6-1, had a 3-0 lead when umpires waved players off the field in the bottom of the third. Heavy rain sent fans scurrying toward the concourse. Many were gone by the time play resumed.

“I’m going to say a little prayer to Mother Nature and see if we can figure things out,” Kopech joked after the game. “I had no idea [it might rain]. I even checked the weather before my start today because I didn’t want it to go like last time.

“Unfortunately, I guess the weather app wasn’t on the same page. It came pretty quick there.”

Dylan Covey replaced Kopech after the delay and pitched three scoreless innings. He allowed three hits, walked one and fanned three to preserve a three-run cushion.

Juan Minaya tossed two innings before Ian Hamilton came in to make his big-league debut. Hamilton pitched a 1-2-3 inning to finish a game that started in August and ended in September.

“It just happened so fast,” Hamilton said of his first day in the majors. “I didn’t have a chance to think about it. It’s still going.”

Matt Davidson broke the game open with a three-run home run in the seventh to make it 6-0. The Sox jumped out to an early lead thanks to a run-scoring double by Avisail Garcia and a two-run homer by Yoan Moncada.

Despite his abrupt ending, Kopech, 22, provided plenty to like as he faced the team that drafted him.

He was wild to start the game but quickly honed his command. His first pitch — a 96 mph fastball — drilled leadoff hitter Mookie Betts in the upper arm. Andrew Benintendi was up next and drew a four-pitch walk as Kopech badly missed the plate.

Catcher Kevan Smith called for time and headed to the mound, which prompted the team’s infielders to gather around Kopech. The conference seemed to settle Kopech, who finally found the strike zone on his seventh pitch.

Moments later, Kopech spied Betts trying to swipe third. He ran at Betts and flipped a pickoff throw to Moncada, who applied a between-the-legs tag for the game’s first out.

“I know Mookie’s a good baserunner, and I knew he was probably going to be a little antsy out there, especially with me being young and kind of a nervous guy out there,” Kopech said. “I decided to hold a little bit longer and figured it was coming eventually. I heard ’em yell for me. I stepped off, and he was a little quicker than I thought. About let him get back.”

Kopech cruised from there as he got J.D. Martinez to fly out to right field and Xander Bogaerts to pop up to second base.

By the time the rain arrived, Kopech had faced 12 batters and allowed one hit. He walked one, struck out one and plunked two. He threw 22 of 36 pitches for strikes despite opening with six balls in a row.

The performance lowered Kopech’s ERA to 0.82 after three starts. He has allowed one run in 11 innings, walked one and struck out nine since his arrival Aug. 21.

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His strong start has mirrored an uptick from the Sox’ other young starters, including Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito.

“They’ve been great,” Renteria said. “These guys are settling in, learning about themselves and what they’re capable of doing. They’re starting to trust themselves. Their confidence level continues to rise.

“We’re trying to get through the back end of games to complete what those guys on the front end have done. Right now, we’re going to try to find out a lot, so we’ll see how it goes. But it doesn’t ever take away, regardless of the outcome at the end, from what those guys have done at the beginning of the ballgame. We have a lot of guys that have thrown a lot of quality starts for us, up and down.

“Some haven’t had the results at the end of the game that you would have wanted, but they’ve all continued to improve and develop.”