Chicago White Sox starter Michael Kopech had by far his best start of this young season, and his career so far, in front of a national audience last week, on Sunday Night Baseball.
Kopech threw a career-high seven shutout innings, with just one hit allowed and two walks against six strikeouts in earning his first win of the year. That it came in the nightcap of a doubleheader sweep over the best team in baseball, the New York Yankees, made the 5-0 whitewash all the more sweet.
The 26-year-old flame-throwing righty proved himself not only on Sunday night, but all season, as to why he is one of the most important pieces to the White Sox. All he has done so far this season is pitch to a 1.29 ERA and 0.86 WHIP, with opponents hitting just .122 against him — in the top three in baseball in all of those categories.
If you want to know even more about how dominant Kopech has been, between his last two starts (both against the Yankees), he had a stretch of retiring 30 straight hitters — a no hitter-plus, against the team with not arguably the best lineup in all of baseball. Kopech’s only really bad inning in his two outings against the Yankees was the second inning back in Chicago, when after retiring the first two hitters he gave up four walks, a single and a wild pitch.
On Sunday Night Baseball, Kopech showed and proved why the White Sox have thought so highly of him, going into such a hostile environment as Yankee Stadium and pitching a perfect game for 5 2⁄3 innings. He mixed his fastball and slider to pure perfection, as he struck out the likes of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge (twice). Kopech threw 65 of 92 pitches for strikes, with a 35% whiff rate.
Kopech’s only real trouble in the game came in the seventh with two, two-out walks. But tha budding star rose to the occasion and showed how much he has grown as a pitcher, striking out Estevan Florial swinging on some 98 mph, high heat. That high heat got Kopech out of his only jam, and kept the game scoreless on what would be his final pitch of the game.
The recent dominance from Kopech shows what big cojones he has shutting down the Yankees in a hostile environment and helping the White Sox do something they have had trouble with in recent years: Winning a series against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Kopech even contributed to a bit of history during the doubleheader sweep in the Bronx.
Per STATS:— Daryl Van Schouwen (@CST_soxvan) May 23, 2022
First time in White Sox history two starters went 6+ scoreless innings in a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.
The closest they came was on May 24 and 25, 1968, Tommy John (9.0 IP) and Joe Horlen (8.1 IP) went 6+ scoreless innings on back-to-back days.
It is only due to his lack of run support that Kopech doesn’t have a lot more wins right now. Even on an innings/pitch limit in 2022, Kopech has established himself as a future workhorse ace and possible Cy Young winner. And there’s no doubt at this point that any real postseason run by the White Sox sees Kopech playing a pivotal role.