KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Michael -Kopech buried his face in his glove and screamed.
It has been that kind of year for the White Sox.
After trying to pitch through soreness behind his left knee that flared up when he took his warmups on the mound, Kopech faced only four batters Monday and left the Sox’ 6-4 loss to the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals scored four in the first inning, and the Sox came back to tie, but Joe Kelly hit two batters to start a two-run Royals eighth that dropped the Sox (62-60) three games behind the first-place Guardians in the American League Central. The Sox out-hit the Royals 10-6 with eight singles and two doubles but no home runs and left 11 runners on base. They have one home run in the last seven games.
Go ahead and scream some more, everyone.
“It’s a frustrating loss,” an agitated Tony La Russa said. “We were down 4-0 and came back to tie it. If you wanna say we’re lousy, say we’re lousy.”
Topping off the frustration was Jose Abreu leading off the ninth with his third single to go with two walks, only to see Andrew Vaughn hit into the Sox’ third double play and his second.
“The frustrating part is we had 10 hits,” La Russa said. “We had chances and couldn’t break open the inning. Just left a lot of guys on base. So just a very frustrating loss. It’s upsetting to lose it.”
In Kansas City for one game between series in Cleveland and Baltimore, the Sox fell to a 50-74 division foe that is 9-7 against them.
A vital piece in the rotation, Kopech will be further evaluated.
“You could tell his velocity was down, so we got him out of there,” La Russa said.
Trainer James Kruk, pitching coach Ethan Katz and La Russa had gone to the mound after Kopech’s warmup tosses.
“He threw some [more] balls to make sure and said, ‘No pain, no pain,’ ’’ La Russa said. ‘‘So if you’re feeling no pain, and it doesn’t affect your arm, see what you got. But you could see his velocity was down.”
Kopech walked MJ Melendez, hit Bobby Witt Jr. on the left shoulder on an 0-2 pitch, allowed an RBI single to Salvador Perez and walked Vinnie Pasquantino to load the bases. And his day was over.
“What sucks the most about today is I put the team in a tough situation, second time this year I had to do that and second time the bullpen had to carry the workload for us,” Kopech said. “It just sucks, especially knowing the position we’re in, trying to make a push.”
Kelly, one of seven relievers used by La Russa, hit the two batters and allowed a single to open the eighth, paving the way for the two-run inning.
“That’s not Joe,” La Russa said of the reliever signed to a two-year, $17 million contract before the season.
Not of late it’s not. Kelly owned a 1.38 ERA in his previous 14 appearances but saw it climb to 6.23 for the season.
“First two guys hit by pitch and didn’t throw strikes,” Kelly said. “That’s what happens.”
Kopech has dealt with right knee soreness since he left a start June 12 against the Rangers in the first inning. His ERA climbed from 3.25 to 3.58.
“I don’t really know how to describe it — discomfort,” Kopech said. “We’re going to continue looking into it.
“I wasn’t going to be able to help the team today. The hardheadedness in me wants to stay out as long as possible, but I wasn’t doing us any favors.”
“We still have some time ahead of us,” second baseman Josh Harrison said. “The main thing is to let [Kopech] get evaluated. We’re going to need him for this push. He’s a vital part of our staff.”