Michael Kopech, White Sox rotation stay on a roll

Kopech backed the best start of his career with seven innings of scoreless ball in a victory over the Guardians.

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White Sox starter Michael Kopech pitched seven scoreless innings against the Guardians at Progressive Field on Wednesday.

White Sox starter Michael Kopech pitched seven scoreless innings against the Guardians at Progressive Field on Wednesday.

Ron Schwane/Getty Images

CLEVELAND — Dylan Cease felt “synced up” the night before.

And Michael Kopech was in a rhythm — again — that he doesn’t want to get out of.

That nicely cadenced march you hear is the sound of a White Sox rotation that, believed to be a strength going into the season, is finally drumming up a significant string of performances.

Kopech’s seven innings of scoreless ball in a 6-0 victory over the Guardians on Wednesday afternoon is the latest, and his second dominating start in a row. He retired the first 12 batters with eight strikeouts before Josh Naylor’s single to center leading off the fifth and finished with nine strikeouts, one walk and just two hits allowed.

In the last 13 games, Sox starters have a 2.36 ERA. That includes a one-inning opener Monday from reliever Jimmy Lambert that was followed by five innings of one-run ball from Triple-A callup Jesse Scholtens.

The Sox (21-30) won their third consecutive series. It was also their fifth victory in six games and 14th of 23 as they try to gain early ground in an AL Central Division that is winnable, even for them.

In his previous start against the Royals on Friday, Kopech retired the first 16 batters he faced and worked a career-high eight scoreless innings, allowing one hit while striking out 10 and walking none. In three of his previous four starts, he allowed one hit. In his last two, he hasn’t allowed a run while giving up only three hits and one walk while striking out 19.

“I’m back to trusting my stuff,” said Kopech (3-4, 4.24 ERA), who struck out five of the first six batters, touched 99 mph and mixed in 14 changeups. “The first few starts of the season I was kind of searching, trying to feel what it felt like to throw my stuff with confidence again. Now I feel everything working out front. I have good life on my stuff. The results are showing up.”

The only thing that slowed him down was a bug in his eye.

“[Catcher] Seby [Zavala] came out and actually blew in my eye and got the bug out,” Kopech said. “Good batterymate, right there.”

Tim Anderson’s RBI single with two outs in the third plated the first run against Cal Quantrill. Jake Burger’s sacrifice fly (his 10th RBI in 10 games), Romy Gonzalez’s two-run double to the right field warning track, a wild pitch and Zavala’s sacrifice fly added five runs in the fourth.

After losing the first game of the series 3-0, Cease held the Guardians to two runs in six innings in a 4-2 victory Tuesday, saying he felt “the best I have in a while.”

Sox relievers are also feeling it. Reynaldo Lopez and Jimmy Lambert mopped up with scoreless work, dropping the bullpen ERA to 1.99 in the last 15 games.

A 7-21 start didn’t bury the Sox in a soft AL Central.

“I don’t think we’ve been shy about the confidence in ourselves from the beginning,” Kopech said. “We had a tough stretch early on but starting to click and flow and do that as a staff. Put six runs on the board today on offense. It’s starting to happen on all fronts. If we can continue that, it’s going to end up being a good run.”

The Sox are 5½ games behind the first place Twins (26-24).

“We’re [nine games] under,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “We’re not going to the playoffs [nine] under. It doesn’t matter how many games we’re back, we have to worry about us being prepared to win games. The standings will take care of themselves.”

“We know that we can win this division,” Kopech said. “A couple of years ago [2021] we did it. Last year, we didn’t live up to our potential. To say the least, we know the kind of team we are.”

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