For the second straight series after a possibly-promising season-opening split with Houston, the White Sox had a chance to claim a series win after dropping the opening contest. For the second straight series, they dropped the ball, this time in an excruciating 1-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates despite facing an unproven starter on the other end of a bounce-back performance from Michael Kopech.
This start for the mercurial Michael Kopech played out as the inverse of his disastrous season-opener against San Francisco, withstanding a run in a near-disastrous second inning before settling down for six frames after that, notching his first quality start of the 2023 season (and first since Aug. 17, 2022). He walked three, struck out five, and allowed just two hits on top of that one run.
Here’s Kopech’s Pitcher Report from Baseball Theater:
After being all over the place at home last week, Kopech simplified his arsenal and approach, and appeared to be much better for it. 92 of the 102 pitches he threw today were either fastballs or sliders, and the fastball’s velocity was much more consistent, averaging a zippy 95.9 mph, a plateau he’s only reached one time since early June of last year. He touched 98 mph on both ends of the game, including on two of his final three pitches of the afternoon. More importantly, Kopech’s control was pinpoint, not just filling up the zone, but hitting his targets consistently. The result was a 39% CSW on his four-seamer that’s the fourth-highest he’s had in a game since the start of last season.
Johan Oviedo doesn’t have Michael Kopech’s name recognition, but he pitched like a top prospect for Pittsburgh this afternoon, attacking the Sox with a fastball that sat 96 mph and touched 98 and keeping hitters off-balance with a mix of sliders and curve balls that Sox hitters simply couldn’t time up. Oviedo scattered five hits and came one out away from completing seven innings, the third-longest outing of his career. He only struck out five, but drew enough whiffs on his breaking balls — both of them had a CSW% of 40% or more — that Sox hitters were consistently in bad counts and swinging at sub-optimal pitches.
Here’s the pitch mix, from Baseball Theater:
Overall, Oviedo’s 89 pitches looked like this:
The slumping Elvis Andrus came to the dish in the fifth inning with the tying run on third base and the go-ahead run on second, making for a game-high 2.90 LI. While it appeared the pressure would increase even further with a hit-by-pitch, Andrus was ruled to have swung at the pitch, and he ultimately flew out to center field.
Not counting Yasmani Grandal’s pinch-hit appearance, rookie Oscar Colás saw the most cumulative pressure today, running a 1.94 pLI. He went 1-for-4 with a run scored.
A low score and not a lot of baserunners means not a lot of variance in win probability. The biggest swing in this one belonged to Romy González, whose fifth-inning single sent Colás to third base and helped set up the aforementioned Andrus fly out.
Oviedo sets the bar in this one and it’s not even close, taking the cake with .396 WPA, more than twice the next-highest mark.
Hardest hit: Oneil Cruz is start of this sentence for the second straight game, this time for a smoked 115.9 mph ground ball that Elvis Andrus nonetheless corralled for an out.
Weakest contact: The swinging bunt, so to speak, produced by Tim Anderson as the first batter of the game was a tapper at just 34.1 mph.
Luckiest hit: Oscar Colás began that fifth inning would-be rally with an infield single that had a puny .080 xBA.
Toughest out: The highest xBA of the game belonged to Taft High School alum Jack Suwinski, whose fifth-inning fly out to the wall checked in at .970.
Humorously, the second-toughest out of the game also belonged to Suwinski, though at least in the second inning he got a sacrifice fly out of his .710 xBA stinger.
Longest hit: In a game that didn’t see a ball leave the yard, Suwinski’s fly out up there stands alone at 392 feet.
Magic Number: 1
That’s the number of hits Dylan Cease allowed both of the times he faced the Minnesota Twins in 2022 — and that’s over 16 total innings, if you were wondering. It’s early days yet, but this team sure looks like it needs a stopper.
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 this afternoon?
This poll is closed
Michael Kopech (6 IP, 2 H, ER, 3 BB, 5 SO)
Gavin Sheets (3-for-4)
Jimmy Lambert + Jake Diekman (2 IP, 0 H, BB, 3 SO, Didn’t Lose The Game)
Who was the Cold Cat on a cold afternoon?
This poll is closed
Andrew Vaughn (1-for-3, 3 SO)
Tim Anderson (0-for-4)
Yoán Moncada (0-for-4)