CHICAGO (AP) — Michael Kopech struck out a career-high 10 in just five innings, José Abreu homered and drove in three runs and the Chicago White Sox beat the Texas Rangers 8-4 Sunday for their season-high fourth straight win.
Kopech (2-0), making his second spot start in a week while pitching out of the bullpen, continued to impress after missing the 2019 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and the 2020 season for personal reasons.
Kopech, who resides about 100 miles from Dallas in Tyler, Texas, overpowered Rangers hitters with his 97 mph fastball.
The 24-year-old right-hander allowed one run, on a homer by David Dahl, and four hits without allowing a walk in a career-high 87 pitches.
White Sox manager Tony La Russa came into a game with a limited number of available arms in the bullpen.
Closer Liam Hendricks and relievers Aaron Bummer and Codi Heuer were not available due to a recent heavy workload. La Russa was also without Evan Marshall, who was in Arizona for a funeral.
“He knew it and so did the relievers, we were shorthanded. So to step up and get us five innings, that’s a pressure performance over and above,” La Russa said.
Kopech filled in for ace Lucas Giolito, who cut his finger while opening a bottle. Giolito had his start pushed back to Tuesday against the Tigers.
Despite Kopech’s impressive showing, it remains unclear when Kopech will find a full-time role in the Chicago rotation.
“Michael Kopech is going to be a top-line starting pitcher, but right now it made sense to get him in condition to add more and more pitches. More importantly, the fact he has competed so well, shows he’s got good guts when he goes out there and he keeps his cool and concentration so I don’t have a crystal ball,” La Russa said.
“I use the (Adam) Wainwright experience from ’06. He can pitch in the bullpen all year long and next year win 20,” he said.
Going five innings and getting the win was a special moment for Kopech.
“It means a lot because that’s how still I consider myself, as a starting pitcher. … to take advantage of that opportunity and actually get a little deeper than what the plan was, it’s good for me and the team,” Kopech said.
Abreu hit a two-run homer, the fifth of the year for the reigning AL MVP, in the first off Kohei Arihara (2-2). Arihara, who entered the game with a streak of 12 1-3 scoreless innings, labored through the first inning throwing 40 pitches.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward is going to see if Arihara was tipping his pitches.
“It is something I am going to look into. We thought maybe they were getting them from second base. At times, they were standing real close to second base. And those are things I expect teams to do. I don’t know if Kohei in Japan, if they were heavy on doing that because he does try to hide it with his glove, but they were standing real close to second base kind of peaking in to see if they can see inside the glove,” Woodward said.
“I am always a conspiracy theorist on that. I am always wondering if they can see it especially when they are having good at-bats against him, but overall Kohei didn’t have good command today.”
Adam Eaton hit an RBI triple and scored on Abreu’s sacrifice fly in the second.
One night after getting the game-winning hit, Nick Madrigal hit a two-run triple in the third and later scored on Eaton’s safety squeeze bunt to make it 8-1.
Zack Collins added a career-high three hits as Chicago completed a three-game sweep.
Jonathan Stiever, called up before the game by the White Sox, was tagged for three runs on four hits without recording an out in the sixth.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa had three hits for Rangers, who have lost four of their last five games.
Rangers: Before the game, RHP Kyle Cody was placed on the 10-day injured list, retroactive April 24 with right shoulder inflammation. He took the loss Saturday night in the longest relief appearance of his career (three innings). He was 0-2 with a 7.94 ERA in seven relief appearances. RHP Josh Sborz, who was on the taxi squad, took Cody’s spot on the roster. He is 1-1 with 7.20 ERA in six relief appearances for the Rangers this season. Sborz pitched two scoreless innings in Sunday’s game.
Rangers: RHP Jordan Lyles (1-1, 4.64 ERA) is scheduled to pitch Monday’s series opener against the Angels as the Rangers begin a seven-game homestand. Lyles will be making his second start in less than a week against the Angels. In Tuesday’s loss, he allowed three runs on five hits in six innings.
White Sox: Giolito (1-1, 5.79 ERA) who was pushed back from his scheduled start Sunday, due to a cut on his middle finger is scheduled to start Tuesday against the Tigers. He was injured trying to open a bottle.
“I thought that a glass water bottle I had the twist off, and it wasn’t twist off,” he said.
He allowed eight runs — seven earned — in a career-low one inning Monday against Boston.
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