White Sox 2, Tigers 0: Michael Kopech buys enough time with six no-hit innings

They needed Michael Kopech to throw six no-hit innings and the help of questionable defense from the American League’s second-worst team to score their runs, but the White Sox finally won a series opener, and at Guaranteed Rate Field to boot.

Kopech didn’t get the win to represent the best game of his life. Instead, after Reynaldo López slipped out of jam for a scoreless seventh, the White Sox were able to smear two runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the inning, and that was good enough to return to above .500.

The biggest question is whether Luis Robert will have to miss any meaningful amount of time, or whether he’ll have to play through something that will cost him a meaningful amount of impact. His propensity for sliding-related injuries returned when he jammed his wrist into Jonathan Schoop’s leg attempting to steal second. He beat the throw, but he couldn’t access the bag, and fell away in pain as Schoop collected the ball for the tag. Robert should’ve gone feet-first — not just for his health, but because Schoop blocked the entire bag with his leg and spikes would’ve taught him the danger of doing so. Adam Engel replaced him in center field, and Robert was declared day-to-day after negative x-rays.

The White Sox rallied without him. Facing Alex Lange in the seventh, Yoán Moncada reached with one out when his lazy fly off the end of the bat fooled Akil Baddoo into breaking back, and it ended up dropping in front of him for a single. Josh Harrison singled to right, and after Lenyn Sosa flied out, AJ Pollock walked to load the bases.

Up came Andrew Vaughn, who hit his own soft, loopy drive to right center, and it fell between two deep-playing outfielders to score the game’s only two runs.

It wasn’t pretty, but the White Sox snapped their four-game losing streak in series openers, and their six-game losing streak in home series openers.

Kopech deserves the bulk of the credit, even if he was keeping the lowly Tigers’ offense at bay. He struck out 11 over six innings, with three walks the only blemishes. He threw 56 of 85 pitches for strikes, and 56 of of 85 pitches for fastballs (they were not all the same pitches). The heater induced 17 of the 22 swinging strikes, but he complemented it with a slider that finally deserved real respect. He also threw six changeups and five curveballs, which didn’t really do much aside from show how much fun he and Yasmani Grandal were having.

He didn’t have a shot at completing the no-hitter, but he probably could’ve started the seventh inning with no objections. Instead, López got the ball, and when he allowed a single to Javier Báez, another gutting loss seemed to be in the works.

The Tigers tried. One line drive found Pollock in left, and another liner found Vaughn in right, with Baéz tagging to third on the latter. López then engaged in a battle with Jeimer Candelario, which ended with Candelario swinging through a curveball higher than he anticipated on the eighth pitch of their battle.

Kendall Graveman pitched around a two-out single for a scoreless eighth, and Liam Hendriks flirted with more drama in the ninth. He allowed a one-out single to Báez, then fell behind 3-1 to Harold Castro before Castro popped out on a fastball well inside for the second out. Miguel Cabrera came to the plate with the game on the line and hit a seemingly routine grounder to second, and he reacted as such until he saw Lenyn Sosa literally boot it toward second base. Had he ran hard the entire time, he would’ve reached on an E6. Because he gave away the first 20 feet, Josh Harrison was able to corral the carom and get the ball in first in time for an unlikely 6-4-3.

With the Tigers getting uninspiring corner outfield play, with poor plate discipline and poor timing on easing it out of the box, the White Sox basically played themselves and won.

The White Sox are still very much themselves. They outhit the Tigers 8-3, but Pollock contributed the game’s only extra-base hit with a double, and he didn’t score. The Sox were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10. They had the leadoff hitter aboard in the second, third, fourth and sixth innings and came away with nothing to show for it. Sosa continued to struggle, going 0-for-4 with five stranded from the ninth spot. Rallies keep getting to him because nobody earlier in the lineup can speed up the scoring process any.

And this was in a game started by Daniel Norris, a lefty who throws 90 and was DFA’d by the Cubs earlier in the year. He’s the weakest pitcher of this series on paper, so here’s hoping the Sox figure out a way to make it play out differently in practice.

Bullet points:

*Leury García pinch-ran for Eloy Jiménez, so hopefully that means his leg is healthy enough to provide support at shortstop.

*The Sox are still 3½ games behind Cleveland, which has won six in a row.

Record: 57-56 | Box score | Statcast

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Augusto Barojas

Are the Sox going to have to try and win the division without TA and Robert, seriously? Man these guys are snakebit, even if Robert should have slid better. Just guessing he is going to miss some time, hope not.

Malgar 12

What a joke, mess, shitshow, pick your term, this team is! Even when they win they’re boring and create more causes for concern than causes for hope. Tuning out is the only thing that keeps me sane. Jim, on the other hand, has gotta pay attention to this shit…I hope we’re paying him enough…his writing is the only enjoyable part of following this team that I have left.

shaggy65

It’s a bad sign when I read the recap of a WIN and am still glad I didn’t watch the game.

soxygen

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that there is a very strong chance that the Sox win this series against the last place team in the weakest division in baseball, so suck it, haterz!

The guys could have just folded last night when they saw that Daniel Norris had his best stuff…but instead they stuck with it and fought hard for a victory. SO…MUCH…FIRE!!!

Here are some positives: Luis Robert hustled for a few innings before he got hurt; Yoan Moncada was 1 for 4 and is probably about to go on one of those hot 5 for 20 streaks that gets his average up to .200; and we were able to put ourselves in a position to use our “winning bullpen” today so hopefully they will be rested when the Sunday rubber match comes around.

soxygen

In all seriousness, Kopech looked absolutely fantastic. Good for him. I have always felt like he has a higher ceiling than Cease, and he showed us some of that tonight – a very efficient night for Michael.

upnorthsox

*Leury García pinch-ran for Eloy Jiménez, so hopefully that means his leg is healthy enough to provide support at shortstop.”

Wow, 90+% of the comment section let out a collective moan reading that line.

gibby32

It is the 90+% that is not closely watching Lenyn Sosa. The reaction to Leury has morphed over the season. At the beginning, most of us would have said that Leury’s role should be to play second once or twice a week to rest Harrison, once or twice a month to rest Tim, play the outfield in an emergency, and fill in over an extended time in the event of injury. LaRussa’s abysmal utilization of Leury has caused a number of us to react as if it’s a disaster if he plays at all. He’s a better bet to play short during Tim’s absence, even if it is unlikely to make the team successful over an extended time.

BenwithVen

I know it’s the Tigers, but that was the best that Kopech’s stuff had looked in months. He looked incredible.

peanutsNcrackerjack

What is happening here with exit velocities?? White Sox hitters used to hit the ball really hard, now they are pop flies or at best warning track fly balls. It’s like they have taken the advice to not get hurt by reducing their swing speeds as well.

upnorthsox

Maybe exit velocities is not the stat its cracked up to be

As Cirensica

EV is a decent stat for predicting outcome, and quality of contact. It loses value when the fielders can predict where the ball will be hit at, and I think the opposing teams seem to have a good idea about where the White Sox hitters hit the ball.

ChiSoxND12

And the inverse seems to be true of our corner outfielders. I know they’re disturbingly slow, but how many opponent basehits seem to require forever to get to, leading to doubles and sometimes triples? Most of that’s (lack of) speed/ability, but some of it is probably positioning too

soxygen

Don’t forget our CF! He frequently saunters in the general direction of the batted ball with no obvious sense of urgency.

Joliet Orange Sox

The Sox hitters have a total BABIP of 0.307 and opposing hitters have a total BABIP of 0.297 against Sox pitchers. Neither one of these numbers is particulary high or low. I’m not convinced at all of this argument about fielders excelling at predicting where the Sox hitters will hit the ball.

I think the lack of HR’s and lack of BB’s are by far the most significant problems the Sox offense has. In fact given how few home runs and walks the Sox have, I’m actually surprised the Sox are slightly above average in runs scored.

Last edited 3 months ago by Joliet Orange Sox
a-t

The problem is grounders. It’s not exit velo (7th in MLB) it’s not opponents deciphering where they hit it (spray angle), it’s launch angle. They are wasting their hard contact on balls that are too low to do any damage unless they find a gap. They have the 4th lowest avg launch angle, 4th highest GB%, 4th lowest HR/FB… etc.

This is a Frank Menechino problem. Miami had the same issue for everyone but Stanton. Yelich and Ozuna broke out before they broke down as soon as they left Miami and Menechino.

Joliet Orange Sox

I agree with you. My post was expressing my skepticism about opponents predicting spray angle being the problem.

I also agree Menechino is a huge problem. Josh showed the stat during the podcast on Thursday about teams that hit 70% of their hits for singles being rare and almost always involving Menechino. This year’s Tigers also have a singles problem and their hitting coach is Scott Coolbaugh who was Menechino’s assistant with the Sox.

Last edited 3 months ago by Joliet Orange Sox
upnorthsox

Don’t be surprised because they are not. They’re 19th in Runs and 19th in Runs/gm so they are below average.
They’re slightly above average in doubles, 13th with 191 (187 league avg)
and the afore mentioned 2nd in hits with 1010 but that’s it. Everything else is below average or worse.
Last in BB
27th in triples
26th in HR
26th in SB
26th in SF (yes 26th in fricken Sac Flies)
19th in OBP
20th in OPS
22nd in GIDP (or 9th most however you want to say it)
Oh and
4th most in errors 71
4th worst in assists 917

I don’t mean to be dour or make lists but sometimes you just have to type it out to remind yourself that its real.

Joliet Orange Sox

The Sox have scored 4.24 runs per game. The American League average is 4.22 runs per game. That is what I was referring to.

The MLB average is 4.32 runs per game which the Sox are below.

I agree the Sox have had mediocre offensive production either way.

The Sox are 5th in MLB in batting average and poor in so many other categories because I think that is what they are trying to be good at based on Menechino’s track record and quotes. The idea that a high batting average is not the same as good offensive production has been well known for a long time to everyone except the Sox hitting coach.

upnorthsox

Ah ok, yeah I stopped looking at league stats as it doesn’t mean much anymore with the universal DH.

a-t

Errors and assists don’t mean a ton; their defense sucks because the outfield doesn’t have any damn range, their value lost on errors is only a little under average. They’re about average on net on the infield, 2nd in catcher defensive value, and easily the worst team in the majors in OF defensive value. They aren’t getting to balls, and they’re so slow that they don’t get to balls quickly enough to throw guys out even with okayish arms. Eloy’s been merely a little below average, Pollock a little above. The issue is playing two 1Bs in the corners constantly, plus whatever is up with Robert physically.

lifelongjd

The Sox as a team have the second most hits in all of MLB and are 5th overall in batting average. They are 19th in runs scored and 25th in home runs.

If you take out 2020, their hitting coach (who has 9 years experience) team’s best season for home runs is 19th.

All this team does is hit singles. They can’t score any god damn runs and yet they do nothing.

soxygen

I actually think you are giving the team too much credit (or not enough?!?) with “all this team does is hit singles” because you are failing to recognize the team’s performance in other relevant categories like percentage of possible extra bases taken, GIDP, outs at 3rd, outs at home, etc.

This team is failing to score using multiple distinct approaches!

Last edited 3 months ago by soxygen
lifelongjd

Yep. All of those metrics support my point. This isn’t a team of grinders. They should be hitting home runs and pulling the ball. They’re actually performing well as it relates to how they’re being coached. It’s just not leading to runs or wins, which is ya know, the whole point of the sport.

soxygen

Yeah, there is nothing grindy about this team. I can’t remember seeing a Sox team give away more outs, and in more ways, than this one does. It really is remarkable.

burning-phoneix

How is it legal for Schoop to completely block the bag like that? Hopefully these teaches Robert to cut it with these head first slides that keep getting him injured and go in spikes first.

metasox

He was wearing the oven mitt as well. Of course, the point of that is to go in head first.

snoopy369

Yeah, I feel like this shouldn’t be legal – should be considered obstruction. Unfortunately, it’s routinely not called, so, what are you going to do. (Oh, right, slide in feet first…)

Last edited 3 months ago by snoopy369
soxygen

Dispatch from the WTAM broadcast of the Cleveland-Toronto game: “Every one of these Guardian players runs to first like their pants are on fire.”

Huh. But what about their hamstrings?

The rationalizations of some Sox fans for popular guys on the Sox half-assing it have reached absurd levels recently, so it’s worth highlighting that we are competing with a team that doesn’t take any plays off.

Last edited 3 months ago by soxygen
burning-phoneix

I don’t really think it’s a rationalization when the Org itself comes out and says they’ve told their players not to hustle.

soxygen

Sure. I was recently told that it would be dumb for our captain to run hard all the time and that it is possible to be playing hard without running hard…

But I hear you, we don’t really know who is half-assing it on their own and who has permission to half ass it from the training staff.

I’m not sure Tony does either – for example, after one of the June games when Robert wasn’t running hard in the field or on the bases he said, sounding somewhat doubtful “I guess he has a leg thing.”

I’m just feeling salty about how far some people will go to defend loafing that everyone can see.

Last edited 3 months ago by soxygen
metasox

It impressive how Cleveland executes its plan for constructing a ballclub. They know they can’t spend much so they say let’s be really good at developing pitching and focus on a certain prototype they know how to work with. They can’t load up on bigtime hitters and power – that is expensive – so they instead focus on speed (which is relatively cheap), defense (also cheap) and fundamentals (basically free).

Last edited 3 months ago by metasox
soxygen

Agreed. Also…the guys on Cleveland’s team execute at the plate, on the bases, and in the field.

Obviously this is where you were headed, but I am just pointing out that it isn’t just that the team targets these kinds of players. Or that they encourage their guys to do it. The players actually do these things – the players execute at the plate, on the bases, and in the field. This is why Tom Hamilton says that this is the most fun Cleveland team he has ever watched; meanwhile, we are watching guys up and down this roster swing at the first pitch, loaf or lose focus on the bases, and space out in the field.

Last edited 3 months ago by soxygen