As if picking up from the strong start from Dylan Cease, the Chicago White Sox allowed only one run in their second win in a row. Facing the rival Chicago Cubs, the White Sox jumped ahead early and held on to win the game 3-1.
The win to open the series further highlighted the pitching staff. Cease has been one of the elite pitchers in baseball and the seven scoreless innings against the Angels with 11 strikeouts is impressive but not shocking. The recent game, however, showcased the entire pitching staff of the White Sox and how it could help carry the team this season even if the offense struggles.
Michael Kopech has started the season with a unique return to the rotation. On an innings count, Kopech has given the White Sox strong starts but in a limited role. In five starts, he has yet to allow more than two runs in each outing but at the same time, hasn’t pitched past the fifth inning.
The start against the Cubs was no exception. Kopech pitched four scoreless innings with five strikeouts. However, it was how the pitcher dominated on the mound, notably how Kopech used and controlled his secondary pitches that stood out.
Kopech’s pitch breakdown vs. the Cubs (83 pitches): 54 fastballs. 15 sliders. 13 curveballs. One changeup.
Kopech is a primary fastball thrower, and he threw the pitch in the high heat range of 97 miles per hour seven times. However, the recent start saw an increase in his secondary pitches. Moreover, the slider continued to hit the lower part of the strike zone and dip out of the zone and is becoming a reliable option for the righthander. While the fastball and curveball were all over the place, the slider gave Kopech the ability to limit the Cubs lineup.
It was another strong night for Kopech who once again stepped up in his start. While he could have provided more innings, the reaction to him leaving the game is exactly what the fans want to see. It was a sign that Kopech knows he can provide more innings and is frustrated he got pulled as a result. However, the team knows they’ll have a pitcher that by midseason can lead the pitching staff and become the elite pitcher the White Sox hoped he’d become when they acquired him from the Boston Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade.
The White Sox are already seeing Cease become an elite starter in the rotation. The first five starts of the season have similarly shown the ceiling of Kopech. The recent start, however, showcased his ability to dominate on the mound and the gradual improvement that is seen with each passing start. While Kopech has shown he can provide more innings, the White Sox once again would need to rely on their bullpen to help preserve a victory for the team.
White Sox bullpen stepping up
The White Sox bullpen was well-rested. After all, only Kendall Graveman and Liam Hendriks needed to pitch an inning each in the 3-0 victory on Monday. With the rest, the bullpen was able to close out the game and give the team five reliable innings with the three-run lead.
In the elements, Reynaldo Lopez forced a grounder to Jose Abreu, who turned the 3-6 double play. Lopez then quickly struck out the Cubs’ first-year phenom Seiya Suzuki on a 2-2 slider to end the inning with only nine pitches thrown.
Jose Ruiz struggled in his one inning allowing one run on two hits. However, Ruiz went to the off-speed pitches to strike out the side, with the changeup and curveball getting him out of trouble. After getting out of the jam, the White Sox were in full control. Aaron Bummer only needed 11 pitches to get through the seventh, Matt Foster only needed 11 pitches to get through the eighth, Hendriks in 10 pitches earned his sixth save of the season. Based on the postgame interview, Hendriks as well as the rest of the bullpen was looking to get out of Wrigley in a hurry.
When the bullpen is clicking it looks effortless. Moreover, it’s hard to even notice the bullpen as they quickly retire the opposing lineups and seal the victories, as they often did last season. This year’s bullpen has struggled at times but once again, has proven to be a prominent part of the White Sox.
White Sox will rely on pitching looking ahead
The White Sox lineup struggled in April, scoring only 3.28 runs per game and in back-to-back wins, the lineup only scored three runs. The batting order is continuing to struggle in the cold Chicago weather and without Eloy Jimenez, requiring the pitching staff once again to step up.
The next game will see Lucas Giolito make his third start of the season. After a strong start against the Minnesota Twins, where he pitched four innings with one run allowed and nine strikeouts, the White Sox will need another big start. Moreover, Giolito is hopefully going to provide the team with more innings as he returns to form as one of baseball’s best starting pitchers.
The first few weeks of the season have been rough for the White Sox. Batting orders have struggled to find runs and the White Sox have been no exception, with the weather, the ball, and other exterior condition hurting the offense. However, the teams that make the playoffs are the ones that are scheme-proof. The teams that win in all types of conditions and all types of ballgames are the ones that make it to October. Early on, the White Sox have proven they can win on the mound with great pitching.
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