Michael Kopech made his case for another inning.
The Chicago White Sox starter had not allowed a hit and struck out a career-high 11 through six stellar frames Friday against the Detroit Tigers at Guaranteed Rate Field.
He did not get his wish. The Sox turned to Reynaldo López for the seventh.
“I thought I had a pretty decent chance, but they didn’t want that to happen,” Kopech said. “I’m at a point in the season where I’ve thrown a lot more innings than I did last year, so they want to rest me and make sure I’m healthy here for the next one.”
The team’s no-hit bid ended when Javier Báez led off the seventh with a single to right-center.
The Sox didn’t get the no-no but they did get a victory. Andrew Vaughn broke a scoreless tie with a two-out, two-run single in the seventh, and the bullpen kept the Tigers off the scoreboard for a 2-0 win.
“That’s as far as he should have gone,” manager Tony La Russa said of Kopech. “But if you think I’m old school, I’m really new school. I would change the definition of a win. If we win the game, he’s got to get the win.
“I was aware where it was. I knew it wouldn’t be popular, but I don’t want to have regret.”
Kopech, who exited after 85 pitches, said he understood the decision.
“Eighty-five pitches in the sixth isn’t going to get me through the ninth inning,” Kopech said. “What they were saying was, ‘What’s the difference between the sixth and the seventh if you’re not going to go nine?’ And I understand.
“I would have liked to have gone deeper, but the bullpen came in and did their job, and we put some runs up and won the game and that’s what matters.”
The Sox opened a seven-game homestand on a positive note but had to complete the contest without Luis Robert. The center fielder exited with a sprained left wrist after sliding headfirst while trying to steal second base in the sixth inning.
X-rays were negative and Robert is day to day, the Sox said.
The Sox on Thursday squandered another strong outing by Dylan Cease against the Royals in Kansas City, Mo. They made sure they didn’t do the same Friday with Kopech on the hill.
While the right-hander didn’t factor in the decision, he was fantastic.
“I feel like that was the definition of dominant,” Vaughn said of Kopech. “That was unbelievable. Watching him pitch from the outfield, I could see the ball moving from there. Special.”
Kopech reached double-digit strikeouts for the second time in his career, with the first occurring April 25, 2021, when he struck out 10 against the Texas Rangers.
Kopech struck out the side in the second Friday and added another to start the third.
“I felt like I was able to kind of catch a rhythm toward the second or third inning,” he said. “Stuff was coming out good and overall I was feeling pretty good.”
Kopech struck out two of the three batters in the fourth. After walking the leadoff batter in the fifth, Kopech struck out the next three.
He struck out two more while retiring the side in order in the sixth.
“He wanted to go back out there because he really had good command of his fastball,” La Russa said. “But you reach back for extra when you’re tired and get to that limit, bad things happen. Very difficult. I felt it was the right thing to do. It was my decision. (Pitching coach) Ethan (Katz) felt the same way, if that helps.”
Kopech lowered his ERA to 3.18.
Friday was the 21st start of the season for Kopech, who returned to the rotation after spending most of last season in a relief role. He missed 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery and opted out of the 2020 pandemic-shortened season for personal reasons.
The Sox planned to keep track of his innings throughout the season, and he said the communication has been good.
“There are times where you’re worried if your stuff will translate from the bullpen to the starting rotation,” Kopech said. “Obviously some things have been different than they were last year. The velocity hasn’t been up. Strikeout numbers haven’t been up. Both of those were up a tick (Friday).
“The fact that it played up, that I had decent success in location this year just makes me satisfied moving forward. The goal is always to give the team a chance to win, but on a personal note I want to be able to do this for as long as I can.”
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