DENVER — The White Sox again were faced with what has become the daunting task of getting over the .500 mark Tuesday.
The next goal would be creating some distance between themselves and that unwanted so-so line. And by starting a run of 19 consecutive games against teams with sub-.500 records with a 2-1 victory against the 44-54 Rockies, no better opportunity has presented itself this season.
But take nothing for granted, manager Tony La Russa warned before right-hander Michael Kopech and four relievers took care of the Rockies at hitter-friendly Coors Field. Why would you when you’ve underachieved for almost four months?
‘‘You don’t have the luxury in this league to think you have an edge when you don’t have an edge,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘You have to be ready to compete. I also know we have to accumulate wins.’’
The Sox (49-48) avoided losing for the sixth consecutive time after reaching .500 and pulled to three games of the American League Central-leading Twins, who lost to the Brewers. The Sox had lost after reaching 22-22, 23-23, 33-33, 45-45 and 46-46, so one step at a time.
But with nobody but the Rockies, Athletics, Royals, Rangers and Tigers on the schedule before the Astros come to Guaranteed Rate Field on Aug. 15, the Sox needed to stop making that an issue.
A well-rested Kopech, the beneficiary of two of the Sox’ season-high four double plays — all of which ended innings — pitched 51⁄3 scoreless innings to do his share. Jimmy Lambert, Joe Kelly, Kendall Graveman and Liam Hendriks did the rest, although Hendriks gave up a leadoff home run to Ryan McMahon in the ninth to create some late tension.
Starting his first game since July 15, Kopech was given the most rest of any Sox starter over the All-Star break. He has pitched a career-high 881⁄3 innings in the majors, and his workload is being watched, and while he understands why he said he’d rather not have it because it takes him out of his rhythm.
‘‘There’s no set number [of innings]; we’re just monitoring him,’’ pitching coach Ethan Katz told the Sun-Times on Tuesday. ‘‘And if he’s tired, we know we need to pull back. If there’s an opportunity to skip [a start], if needed, we’ll consider that. But I don’t think there’s a magic number [of innings] from talking to the medical staff. It’s kind of see how he’s feeling and how he’s doing. Just keep things within reason.’’
Kopech pitched mostly in relief last season, but Katz said having him pitch out of the bullpen down the stretch isn’t being considered.
‘‘No, it’s nothing we’ve discussed,’’ Katz said. ‘‘Obviously in September, with expanded rosters, we can do things to give him a break. But right now he’s starting.’’
The Sox took a 1-0 lead when Rockies shortstop Garrett Hampson mishandled AJ Pollock’s would-be double-play grounder in the fourth, allowing Eloy Jimenez to score. Adam Engel singled against Jake Bird in the seventh, stole second and scored on a double by Yoan Moncada for the second run.
Kopech, who yielded six hits and three walks and struck out four, lowered his ERA to 3.16.
“Team win tonight,” Kopech said. “I wasn’t able to do exactly what I wanted with most of my pitches but for the most part I was able to fill up the zone after the first two innings.”
The close victory was another reminder for the Sox, who have won seven of their last 10 and are 14-9 in July, to take nothing for granted.
‘‘It’s a trap,’’ Pollock said of looking ahead at a softer schedule. ‘‘It can take you out of the moment. It’s never a good recipe to look at who you’re playing down the road. Today is the most important day.
‘‘You can’t win today and be 10 games over .500; you can only be one game over .500. Other guys may look at it [differently], but that’s what works for me and teams I’ve been on that had success. They don’t care what’s down the road. They show up and live in the day. After the game, it’s: ‘Who we got tomorrow?’ It’s about the pitcher and doing your job.’’