ANAHEIM, Calif. — Right-hander Michael Kopech hasn’t backed down from big moments, and he had another when he matched up Wednesday against Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani as the White Sox tried to get some momentum going in the rubber game of a series at Angel Stadium.
”He definitely has that quality,” manager Tony La Russa said before the game, noting Kopech’s one-hit starts May 22 against the Yankees on ”Sunday Night Baseball” and June 7 against the Dodgers, outings in which he pitched seven and six innings, respectively.
”This one is [to] win the series. It’s important for us going into the day off, going to San Francisco. One thing about him, he’s going to be ready to compete. And if he’s got it all working, we’ve got a great chance. If he doesn’t, he’s going to work his butt off to get it right.”
Kopech was forced to do the latter after the Angels scored two runs in the first, one of them when Kopech was charged with an error covering first base while attempting to complete a double play. Mike Trout, who had doubled home Taylor Ward (leadoff single), trotted home from third after shortstop Tim Anderson’s throw eluded Kopech, who was on the move.
Kopech rebounded from the first with three scoreless innings.
Having Kopech, Lance Lynn, Dylan Cease, Lucas Giolito and Johnny Cueto in regular rotation since Lynn came off the injured list ”is the most positive thing we’ve got going,” La Russa said. ”We’ve got legitimate starters. In San Francisco [this weekend], we have Lynn, Cease and Giolito. That’s where it starts.”
Closer Liam Hendriks (strained flexor in forearm) threw a bullpen session Wednesday, is slated for a simulated game Friday in San Francisco and might be able to return early next week.
”We get him back and we start swinging the bats, we can percolate,” La Russa said.
Anderson and Jose Abreu singled in the first, but Ohtani (6-4, 2.90 ERA going in) struck out Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert and Gavin Sheets in a 25-pitch inning.
Anderson flashing speed
Anderson took it easy when he first came off the IL after a strained groin, but he is blazing around the bases again.
”I’ve been feeling better in the last couple of games, able to move a lot more,” Anderson said. ”Overall, the body feels a lot better than it did.”
Anderson and other Sox players dealing with leg issues have been told to ”slow it down” when needed. It goes against Anderson’s instincts, but he gets it.
”My speed has always been a part of my game,” Anderson said. ”It’s just a matter of being smart, as well, after coming off the groin until I feel comfortable getting back rolling.”
Anderson said he wants to play every day but will rest when the training staff recommends it.
”I’m going to play every day I can,” he said. ”Whatever they say, goes. Just going to follow what they say.”
This and that
Outfielder/designated hitter Andrew Vaughn, who has been dealing with leg soreness, was rested to give him consecutive days off, including the Sox’ day off Thursday.
+ Outfielder Eloy Jimenez hit the first home run of his minor-league rehab, his first extra-base hit in 13 games. Jimenez has played only at DH and is 9-for-46 (.190).