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Reynaldo Lopez continues second-half roll as White Sox hold off A’s

He has allowed three runs or fewer in all six of his second-half starts. He has four quality starts during that span and a 2.13 ERA.

Reynaldo Lopez reacts at the end of the second inning Saturday against the Athletics at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Reynaldo Lopez reacts at the end of the second inning Saturday against the Athletics at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

It wasn’t that long ago that White Sox fans would’ve preferred to see right-hander Reynaldo Lopez pitch out of the bullpen or even head back to Class AAA Charlotte.

At the All-Star break, Lopez, 25, had a 4-8 record to go with a 6.34 ERA — one of the worst among qualifying pitchers. He allowed six runs and nine hits in his last start before the break, and if the Sox had been more of a contender, that could have been it for Lopez.

The Sox stood by him, though, and he has been proving himself in every start since. He threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings in a 3-2 victory Saturday against the Athletics, forcing timely double plays and touching 100 mph on the radar gun.

“I changed my mindset,” Lopez said of the second half. “I just tried to simplify my thoughts. Don’t get too into what happened during the game, things that I can’t control. Just try to execute my pitches and trust them and trust myself.”

Lopez has allowed three runs or fewer in all six of his second-half starts. He has four quality starts during that span and a 2.13 ERA.

He’s once again resembling the pitcher who broke out in the second half of 2018, when he finished the season with a 3-1 record and 2.70 ERA in his last 11 starts.

“If I had to pinpoint anything, it’s that he’s pitching with a little more urgency and a little more confidence,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s trusting his stuff again. Before he was maybe nitpicking a little bit, trying not to get hurt. Now he’s just trusting his stuff.”

Home runs were his biggest shortcoming in the early part of the season. Lopez entered the game ranked fifth in home runs allowed per nine innings. He has allowed three home runs in a game three times this season.

Since July 14, however, he has allowed only one home run in 38 innings.

The A’s managed only six hits (all singles) off him.

“I felt good,” Lopez said. “I was throwing strikes even though the changeup wasn’t working today. I was able to command the fastball, and the slider was good and the curveball was good, too. I used them in the situations that I needed.”

Lopez pitched his way into trouble more than once but always seemed to find his way out of it. Two batters reached safely with one out in the first and fourth innings, but Lopez got out of both unscathed. He also forced three double-play groundouts.

He came back out for the seventh inning after throwing 95 pitches. Lopez went 3-1 to Jurickson Profar before striking him out on a 97 mph fastball, then walked Chris Herr-mann to end his night.

The A’s went on to load the bases before Aaron Bummer forced a flyout by Robbie Grossman. Jon Jay chased the ball down and made an over-the-shoulder grab as he fell forward to save the game.

“The defense was fantastic,” Renteria said. “Obviously, the game-saver was the Jay catch over the shoulder. We turned quite a few double plays. . . . The defense did a great job and kept us there.”

Eloy Jimenez cranked a solo home run in the fifth inning, and Leury Garcia doubled in the eighth to extend his streak of reaching base safely to 20 games, a career high.