Avi fell a triple shy of the cycle, as he went 3-for-4. He also made a leaping catch at the wall in the top of the fifth inning to rob Wilson Contreras of another extra-base hit.
But the headliner before the game was Reynaldo Lopez.
The first three innings were smooth sailing for the young righty. He hung one breaking ball to Mike Freeman, but Freeman was unable to take advantage.
Then came the fourth inning.
Lopey (as Coop calls him) lost command on all off-speed pitches, allowing two home runs. Wilson Contreras hit the first, while the other was to Freeman, who did not miss another hanging off-speed pitch in clocking a two-run shot to right field.
Throughout his 4 1⁄3 innings, Lopez’s command of off-speed pitches eluded him, much like it did in 2017. Last season, his curveball runs above average was -2.5 and his changeup runs above average was -3.7. In order for Lopez to take the next step, he must improve his command on those two complementary pitches, because his fastball is already an above-average pitch.
Once Lopez was lifted, the White Sox bats came alive. Welington Castillo, who went 2-for-3, scored on a passed ball after he doubled in the bottom of the fourth. Avi hit his home run off of Cubs closer Brandon Morrow in the sixth, to the opposite field. In the eighth, Yoan Moncada (batting from the right side) clobbered a solo homer to left off of Brian Duensing.
But the Sox bullpen did not help keep the game close.
Xavier Cedeno took over for Lopez in the fourth and gave up an earned run in 2⁄3 of an inning. Gregory Infante relieved Cedeño in the sixth and gave up an earned run in one inning of work.
But some good news did come out of the pen this afternoon: Dane Dunning pitched the seventh and eighth with no damage, before being sent down to minor league camp immediately after the game.
Robbie Ross finished the game by pitching the ninth, and again looked sharp. He has made a fast push to be one of the lefty specialists in the bullpen. Since Cedeño has faltered as the spring has gone on, Ross’s addition was well-timed. At this point, Ross has a good chance to make the Opening Day roster as the second lefty behind Luis Avilan.
The Sox have 10 spring training games left to find their best 25-man roster. Most of the crucial positions are clear, but the bench and back-end of the bullpen need to be sorted out. I expect to see a lot more of the bubble players down the stretch.