Folks, we have a winning streak. The White Sox made like the USPS and delivered through what felt like sleet, snow, and hail in a 3-1 series-opening win over the Cubs that rarely seemed quite as close as the score indicated. The victory puts them at 10-13 on the season, entering the first Wednesday of May 4 1⁄2 games back of the Twins, who moved to 15-9 with a 7-2 win over Baltimore yesterday.
Michael Kopech was not happy with the conclusion of his start today. After allowing a very familiar seeing-eye single up the middle to Nick Madrigal leading off the fifth inning, Kopech departed with a line of four innings pitched, four hits, two walks, five strikeouts, and ultimately, zero runs. His ERA dropped to a 1.17 ERA in 23 innings, tied for third-lowest in the league with numbers exactly matching those put up by Carlos Rodón entering tonight.
It didn’t seem as if anybody was talking about it, but the weather was absolutely miserable on the North Side, and it’s not surprising that Kopech never quite developed a great feel for his slider. It’s hard to spin it when you can’t feel your hands because there’s a 32° wind chill. He leaned on his fastball a season-high 65% of the time, and as has now been the case multiple times this season, his curveball (46% CSW) was considerably more effective than his slider (7% CSW).
Kopech hasn’t yet flashed the triple-digit velocity he used to be known for, and tonight he sat between 94 and 96 mph, perfectly in line with season averages and topping out at 97. It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t need sticky stuff to have one of the highest fastball spin rates in the game, and he uses that spin more efficiently than most. The result is a fastball that explodes like this even at 95 mph:
Michael Kopech, 95mph Fastball and 79mph Curveball, Overlay/Slow pic.twitter.com/DaDpCR0MWN— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 4, 2022
Kopech’s 83-pitch outing looked like this on the whole:
Scott Effross opened for the Cubs after Drew Smyly was placed on the bereavement list late in the afternoon, recording four outs and ultimately winding up responsible for the first two of the Sox three runs before yielding to Keegan Thompson for 3 2⁄3 innings of bulk work.
Thompson entered today having allowed just nine hits and one run in 16 2⁄3 innings, and danced around danger for the duration of his appearance today. Tim Anderson’s solo homer in the third inning was the only dent in his line; double plays in consecutive innings bailed him out from the other three hits and two hit-by-pitches that followed Anderson’s homer.
Thompson’s 46 pitches looked like this:
In spite of his reaction, Kopech came through when it mattered most, inducing a pop up to first base off the bat of Yan Gomes with the bases juiced and two out in the fourth inning — and a game-high 3.29 LI.
Gomes ran a .198 pLI that was also the highest of the game, edging out a 1.70 mark for José Ruiz. Gomes went 1-for-4 and finished with -15% Win Probability Added.
In a somewhat (but not excessively) uncommon occurrence, the losing team came up with the biggest play of the day by WPA, as a Nico Hoerner double against Ruiz in the sixth inning brought the tying run to second base.
Tonight, the glory of a win was spread as evenly as I can ever recall seeing it. Tim Anderson, Jake Burger, Reynaldo López, Aaron Bummer, Matt Foster, and Liam Hendriks all registered between 7% and 9% WPA, but the prize goes to Michael Kopech, whose 15% WPA nearly doubled the rest of the field.
Luckiest hit: Gavin Sheets’s 72 mph squibber had just a .050 expected batting average, and next year, it might not be a hit. But today, it beat the shift, and takes the crown for today.
Toughest out: It was the South Side’s turn to be the beneficiaries of some dead ball luck, as Jason Heyward’s smoked fly out to the left-center field gap in the second inning had a hit probability of 88%.
Hardest hit: Prior to his home run, Anderson rocketed the second pitch of the game to the tune of 107.6 mph — unfortunately right at shortstop Nico Hoerner.
Weakest contact: Excluding Reese McGuire’s 39 mph sacrifice bunt, the (un)clutch popup from Gomes was the worst contact of the day at 46 mph.
Longest hit: Anderson’s home run went 399 feet, a more-than-respectable flight on a night like this one.
Magic Numbers: .695
Since the start of the 2020 season, the White Sox win nearly 70% of the time when Tim Anderson scores a run. This year, they’re 7-3. Never change, TA.
stat nerds when tim anderson has a .400 BABIP at the all-star break pic.twitter.com/zMIzICZY6v— Foolish Baseball (@FoolishBB) March 19, 2021
Hard-hit is any ball off the bat at 95 mph or more
LI measures pressure per play
pLI measures total pressure faced in game
Whiff a swing-and-miss
WPA win probability added measures contributions to the win
xBA expected batting average
Who was the White Sox MVP in their 3-1 Crosstown Cup win?
This poll is closed
Michael Kopech (4 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 5 SO)
Tim Anderson (1-for-3, HR, 2 HBP)
Jake Burger (2-for-4, RBI)
Who was the Cold Cat of today’s win?
This poll is closed
AJ Pollock (0-for-4)
Josh Harrison (0-for-3)
Weather (Just Plain Bad)