White Sox fall below .500 after losing measuring-stick series vs. Yankees

Michael Kopech became the sixth pitcher in franchise history to be saddled with a loss despite allowing only one hit in at least six innings.

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White Sox starting pitcher Michael Kopech throws against the New York Yankees during the first inning of Sunday’s game.

White Sox starting pitcher Michael Kopech throws against the New York Yankees during the first inning of Sunday’s game.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

The White Sox’s 16-17 record is more of a mystery than a malaise.

A starting rotation that has been handled with delicacy has featured moments of dominance, only to stumble at inopportune times.

A potent offense has relied heavily on Tim Anderson and Luis Robert, while many players have struggled because of injuries or slumps.

Words of optimism persist, but a 5-1 loss Sunday to the Yankees mirrored the Sox’ uncomfortable start as they embark on a stretch of eight games in seven days in Kansas City and New York.

Right-hander Michael Kopech became the sixth pitcher in franchise history to be saddled with a loss despite allowing only one hit in at least six innings.

The primary culprit? Kopech’s four walks and a wild pitch that led to three runs during a 41-pitch second inning. Kopech retired 13 consecutive batters after his last walk, but the damage was done.

The Yankees managed only two hits, but Joey Gallo put the game out of reach with a two-run home run against reliever Jose Ruiz in the ninth.

‘‘We had a chance; we were competing,’’ manager Tony La Russa said after the Sox lost for the third time in four games to the Yankees. ‘‘We got blown out in one game, [and] one score is deceptive. I think we can compete with anybody.’’

Aside from the second, Kopech averaged 10 pitches in each of his other five perfect innings.

‘‘I kind of lost that inning on my own,’’ Kopech said. ‘‘I just had a better focus [in the other innings]. I didn’t really have much of my stuff.’’

Kopech will get a chance to make amends next weekend in a rematch at Yankee Stadium. The Sox haven’t named a starter for their game Monday against the Royals, but their offense remains an enigma.

They were held to three hits in eight innings by crafty left-hander Nestor Cortes, who didn’t allow a run until Adam Engel homered with one out in the eighth.

Yoan Moncada, who hit two homers in his previous three games, was rested in preparation for the upcoming trip. But with the exception of Robert, who extended his hitting streak to 13 games, no one picked up the slack against Cortes, who worked briskly and attacked the Sox from all angles.

‘‘I don’t think we did a good job of making him uncomfortable,’’ outfielder AJ Pollock said. ‘‘And he made pitches. So . . . you’ve got to try to make him uncomfortable and he cracks and you might get a chance to get some runs off him or, if he doesn’t, you tip your cap.’’

Eloy Jimenez isn’t expected to return until early June, and Andrew Vaughn went 0-for-4 in his second game since returning from the 10-day injured list with a bruised right hand.

In the meantime, the offense continues to wait for Jose Abreu (1-for-28 slump) and Yasmani Grandal, who flied to deep right as a pinch hitter in the eighth but has only one hit in his last 16 at-bats.

‘‘[The hitters] do their homework, they have their plan, they do their prep,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘One way to [break out of] it would be make sure we maintain our aggressiveness, which should improve our plate discipline. What they’re doing well on the other side, we can improve on that.

‘‘At times, we do a little more chasing — especially before two strikes — when the count is in our favor. We can improve on that.’’

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