Michael Kopech overcomes early struggles to keep White Sox in game
Despite control issues and a noticeable dip in velocity, Kopech pitched 5 1/3 innings of four-hit ball that allowed the Sox to rally for a 4-2 victory over the Tigers.
Much concern arose Sunday after Michael Kopech’s struggles in the first inning were compounded by his tardiness in covering first base for the first out of the second inning.
But after convincing White Sox manager Tony La Russa, pitching coach Ethan Katzand a trainer that his right knee was healthy enough to remain in the game, Kopech provided enough quality with creativity and guile.
“I’ll give you an explanation that was given to me, and when it’s appropriate, I use it,” La Russa said. “You really want to be a productive winner, player, pitcher? There’s a huge box that you gotta check beyond the talent. It’s guts.”
Despite early control issues and a noticeable dip in velocity, Kopech pitched 5„ innings of four-hit ball that allowed the Sox to rally for a 4-2 victory against the Tigers.
“Absolutely, I didn’t have my best stuff,” said Kopech, who threw his first five pitches for balls before Javy Baez hit his next pitch for a two-run home run. “Probably one of the games where I [had] my worst stuff.”
Kopech’s fastball topped out at 94 mph, about five mph slower than what he usually touches. So he leaned more on his slider and cut fastball and was effective.
“Working with what you got, you got to get as deep as you can to give your team a chance to win,” Kopech said. “I didn’t get super deep, but I felt like I was able to fight with what I had.”
Kopech hurt his right knee a month ago, so the Sox were concerned when he was late covering first on a grounder by Robbie Grossman. But Kopech needed only one warmup pitch to convince them he was fine.
“When I’m out there, I don’t feel it, so it’s working with what I have that day,” Kopech said. “If it’s affecting me, I don’t notice it in that moment. I’m giving what I have that day.”
Anderson lone All-Star, for now
No other Sox were selected to the American League All-Star team, leaving shortstop Tim Anderson as the lone representative for the July 19 Midseason Classic at Dodger Stadium.
The biggest omission was right-hander Dylan Cease, who has 133 strikeouts and a 2.45 ERA. Cease and others, however, could be added if other players decline to play.
All about the legs
Luis Robert and other Sox were told last month not to exert themselves on outs to protect their legs from further injury.
But Robert didn’t let up in the series finale as he hustled into second base on a dropped fly by Grossman and scored the go-ahead run.
Afterward, La Russa clarified the distinction.
“Here and again, there have been conversations about not running balls out,” La Russa said. “I even heard there was one guy I respect a lot on TV who said they shouldn’t play if they can’t run the ball out.
“It’s easy for you to say. You need talent out there because they have to protect themselves. For him to run it out with the game on the line, that’s what he’s got to do.”