The Chicago White Sox played the rubber game of the three-game set against the Houston Astros under the lights of Sunday Night Baseball. The White Sox made the game close, with two late runs but ultimately lost 4-3.
The story of the game however was the start of Michael Kopech. After suffering an injury in his previous start, it was unclear if he would pitch in the rotation. The White Sox are reeling with injuries and losing one of their best pitchers for a game would have been another blow. The problem is, the Astros got to Kopech and piled on the runs in the game.
Kopech’s breakdown vs. Astros: 75 pitches. 41 fastballs. 21 sliders. 13 curveballs.
Kopech was pitching at 80%
The previous start for Kopech was a nightmare for the White Sox and the fanbase. The pitcher who is having a breakout year left with an apparent knee injury. Throughout the week, manager Tony La Russa was optimistic that he would be fine to start on Sunday. Kopech was healthy enough to start, that was clear in the game.
The problem was that Kopech, powering through the injury, was pitching at 80% or less. The injury still lingered, and it was clear that he was laboring. The Astros constantly made contact and got on base, scoring an early run in the first inning. Furthermore, Kopech didn’t last long in his start, with a five-inning outing instead of the usual six or seven the team has received this season.
The White Sox were prepared for a short start, with Jimmy Lambert waiting in the bullpen as the bulk pitcher. However, for a team that has received security in their starts from their 26-year-old pitcher, the setback was a tough blow. It makes for an argument of whether it made sense to start a pitcher who was pitching as a shell of himself.
The fastball was down
Kopech has relied on his fastball throughout this season and it has become one of the best pitches throughout the MLB. The pitch is thrown in the high 90s and often paints the high part of the strike zone, giving it a rising fastball feel. Opponents can know the pitch is coming and still struggle to hit it, that’s how good Kopech’s heater has been this season.
Unfortunately, the fastball that normally hits the high 90s was treading in the low 90 range against the Astros. Kopech threw the fastball 41 times but only topped 95 miles per hour once. To make matters worse, the pitch continued to sail to the lower half of the strike zone.
The Astros batters were not only getting to the pitch, but they were also able to get into their swing. Normally, Kopech’s fastball, especially in the upper part of the zone, forces flyouts and awkward swings. Instead, the Astros, even the back half of the lineup, were getting into their swinging motion to power the ball as a result.
The slider and curveball were working. However, with his best pitch taking a step back, the overall night was a letdown, resulting in a difficult outing. The White Sox were coming off a much-needed sweep of the Detroit Tigers and were hoping to carry momentum into the weekend. Instead, the team once again is left middling.
White Sox exit weekend with mixed bag
To be fair, the White Sox faced one of the best teams in the American League, second-best record-wise. Like the New York Yankees a few weeks ago and the Los Angeles Dodgers last week, the Astros were a measuring stick. They are a team the White Sox can not only play to see how they stack up against the elite teams but also to see the weaknesses of the roster.
With this in mind, the weekend had its promising signs. The lineup continued to pile in runs, scoring seven in the win on Saturday and 13 on the weekend. The team completed the road trip with four wins in six games, meaning they slightly gained ground in a divisional race that is shaping up to be an interesting one.
However, the White Sox once again displayed weaknesses. On Sunday night, they had plenty of baserunners but failed to make contact to drive in runs, squandering chances to come back in the game. The White Sox also saw the top of the batting order struggle in the final game of the series, with Luis Robert being the only batter to record a hit in the first five spots in the lineup. This team has already played a roller-coaster season and is within striking distance of the division lead. However, they need to still turn things around and get on a run and they have yet to do that.
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