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White Sox lose, but Reynaldo Lopez appears to be back on track

Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Sunday, April 21, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

DETROIT — Right-hander Reynaldo Lopez had his second consecutive good start after three bad ones to open the season. Now that’s more like what the White Sox expect from a starter they see as an important piece of their future core.

Lopez wasn’t well served, though, by a lineup that produced only two hits and no runs against lefty Daniel Norris and right-hander Buck Farmer through the six innings Lopez was in the game, and by the outfield behind him in a 4-3 loss to the Tigers on Sunday at Comerica Park.

The Sox’ best starter in 2018, Lopez gathered all the intelligence he could gather from sources near him to find his way out of what brought him to a 12.15 ERA in his first three starts. Pitching coach Don Cooper noticed the position of his glove was different in his delivery and corrected that, and the two veterans on the Sox staff, Ivan Nova and Ervin Santana, offered words of advice.

“When I was passing through those rough outings, they were passing through bad moments, too,” Lopez said through a translator. “I saw them bounce back the next day with the same work ethic, same energy, same personality. And then I learned from that and said, ‘You know what? If they’re passing through similar moments like me and they’re keeping their heads up, keeping the same demeanor, then why can’t I do it?’ ’’

Lopez allowed three runs (two earned), six hits and no walks while striking out a season-high eight. He induced 18 swinging strikes.

“He has to keep throwing strikes, command his fastball and continue to miss strong with the secondary pitches when he’s trying to put guys away,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Some of them are staying in the heart of the plate, and they’re getting to it. But in spite of that, he’s minimizing things all across the board. He just has to refine his pitching game, get more experience.”

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The Sox sparkled on one defensive sequence, a relay from center fielder Leury Garcia to second baseman Yolmer Sanchez to third baseman Yoan Moncada to get John Hicks trying to stretch a leadoff double in the third inning.

But Garcia’s error on a fly ball in center field in the sixth turned into the Tigers’ third run. And left fielder Eloy Jimenez, one game after having two doubles land near his feet in a 7-3 win, had another eventful day, tumbling in the left-field corner tracking Nicholas Castellanos’ double, then throwing above the cutoff man and high on Miguel Cabrera’s single that scored Castellanos.

Renteria had a positive take on Jimenez’s play, praising his jumps. And on a day Jimenez went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, including one to end the game against closer Chad Greene to extend an eight-game slump to 3-for-31, Renteria said he’s not worried.

“The whole process is to make him the all-around major-leaguer we’re looking for,” Renteria said. “His offense is going to come. I’m not worried about his offense. He wants to do a lot, but he’s going to hit. If he balances out what he is capable of doing on the defensive side, he’s going to have a complete game on his hands. So it’s going to be nice to see.”

The Sox scored all of their runs in the eighth on consecutive singles by Ryan Cordell, Sanchez, Garcia and Tim Anderson and a wild pitch by Victor Alcantara. In the end, the difference was a seventh-inning leadoff homer against Jose Ruiz by none other than former Sox Gordon Beckham, the Tigers shortstop.

The Sox fell to 8-12 heading to Baltimore for three games but left with a good takeaway: Lopez is back on the right track and will be expected to provide more of the same.

“You feel bad when you can’t do your job,” he said. “During those first three outings, I was a little frustrated because I wasn’t helping the team and doing my job.”