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Michael Kopech, Andrew Vaughn help White Sox gain doubleheader split

Kopech pitched four innings of one-run ball, and Vaughn homered for the second time in three days in the Sox’ 3-1 victory.

White Sox starting pitcher Michael Kopech throws against the Royals during the first inning in the second baseball game of a doubleheader Friday, May 14, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photos

As spot starters go, it’s always nice to have Michael Kopech available.

As spot starts go, four innings of one-run ball from Kopech will do just fine, especially in a seven-inning game.

The talented right-hander, making his third start to go with seven relief appearances, positioned the White Sox to gain a split of their split doubleheader with the Royals on Friday night, holding Kansas City in check in a 3-1 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He gave us a lift, and our bullpen was outstanding,” manager Tony La Russa said. “The worst thing we could do is take him for granted.”

It was a good bounce-back after a 6-2 loss in Game 1 in which Jose Abreu was injured in a collision with Hunter Dozier.

“I was concerned because guys were really shaken,” La Russa said. “The clubhouse was very quiet.”

The Sox (23-14) have won seven of their last eight.

Kopech allowed two hits, including a home run by Carlos Santana in the third inning. After that, he struck out the side in the fourth and called it a night.

“I knew things were a little down [after Game 1], especially after we had been so up the last six games or so,” Kopech said.

“I felt like I competed well and did the job I was supposed to do today.”

Codi Heuer (3-1) pitched a scoreless fifth, Aaron Bummer a perfect sixth and Liam Hendriks a scoreless seventh for his eighth save.

Kopech struck out five and walked two, throwing 65 pitches, 40 for strikes. In three starts covering 12 innings, Kopech has allowed three runs. His ERA is 1.71 to go with 40 strikeouts in 26⅓ innings.

“He had Tommy John surgery, missed a full year, took last year off, and he’s come back to the team like a man on a mission,” Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito said. “His focus, his work ethic, it’s like he hasn’t lost a step after taking all that time off. It’s really, really impressive. It’s always a blast to watch him pitch because his stuff is absolutely electric. His mindset, everything emotional, just completely in control. It’s great to see.”

Vaughn homers again

After waiting 24 games to get his first career homer Wednesday, rookie Andrew Vaughn hit his second in three days, a 421-foot two-run shot to left-center against right-hander Jakob Junis that gave Kopech a 2-0 lead in the second inning of Game 2.

Vaughn has reached base in 22 of 27 games. He made his first start at first base, his natural position.

Good Signs, but Giolito still not there

Giolito (4.97 ERA), who is still searching for the effectiveness that earned him the title of staff ace going into the season, liked the way he threw in the first game. La Russa also liked it. Giolito allowed wind-aided homers to Michael Taylor and Salvador Perez, which amounted to his five runs allowed, in the Sox’ 6-2 loss that ended their six-game winning streak.

“I thought I threw the ball well, but you know, three-run homer, two-run homer — it’s not good,” Giolito said.

Giolito had better life on his fastball, got 18 swings and misses and struck out seven in six innings.

“I’m doing everything in my power to prepare,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m going into these games very confident, and that’s all I can do.

“We found a mechanical adjustment earlier this week that works for me. I carried that into the game, I felt pretty good, but the results weren’t good. So that sucks.”