Michael Kopech seems to be taking turns introducing his rediscovered self to the entire AL Central, following up a bumpy outing against the Angels earlier in the week by showing Detroit the same dominant stuff he’s used to shut down Kansas City and Cleveland in recent weeks. As he did against those two foes, Kopech made it through seven full innings today, probably even leaving some in the tank, departing after 92 pitches, with only a two-run homer from Spencer Torkelson (on a pretty good pitch that got golfed) dinging his final line. Kopech’s fastball averaged a crisp 95.8 mph, still down a notch from when he was tickling triple digits in KC and Cleveland, but it didn’t matter, as it still produced a sterling 40% CSW (tied for his third-highest single-game mark as a starter) on the strength of 14 called strikes to go along with seven whiffs. He also had perhaps the best command of his slider we’ve seen all year, pouring it into the zone for called strikes early in the count and otherwise keeping it on the corners and below the zone to put hitters away.
All in all, Kopech struck out nine while allowing three hits and walking just one. It’s the fourth consecutive start of at least nine punchouts for him, the second-longest streak of any starter this year behind Spencer Strider, who did it for five straight starts in April. He joins Javier Vázquez and Lucas Giolito (who did it twice) as Sox pitchers to punch out nine in four straight games, though he still has a long way to go to match Chris Sale’s franchise record of eight, set in May-June 2015.
Even including the clunker against the Angels, Kopech is still in pretty historic company, as far as this franchise goes: With 38 strikeouts to just four walks, he joins Giolito, Sale, Carlos Rodón and Ed Walsh as the only Sox pitchers to pitch to those benchmarks over four starts while allowing six earned runs or fewer.
Kopech’s 92 pitches looked like this, on the whole:
Opposite Kopech, Matthew Boyd came into today looking to turn around his historical aversion to the White Sox, against whom he had scuffled to a 5.31 ERA in 17 career starts, which includes a streak of 17 consecutive shutout innings over two of those starts in 2018. This was the first time they’d faced each other in more than two years, however, and the Sox hitters swung as if they’d never seen him before, letting Boyd mow them down for a season-high nine strikeouts while allowing just a single earned run, his best outing of the season by just about all measures. Boyd did a good job of living near the top of the zone and inside to righties with his fastball, making it difficult for hitters to time up and put any solid swings against his array of breaking balls and off-speed pitches. That was more than enough for the ever analytically-minded A.J. Hinch, who declined to push his luck a third time through the batting order and pulled Boyd after five innings and 82 pitches.
Here’s a visual on those 82 pitches from Baseball Theater:
And here’s what they looked like in the box score:
Let’s cut right to the good stuff: As the 5.69 LI indicates, the pressure doesn’t get much higher than coming to the plate with the bases loaded and a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, as Jake Burger did today. Pressure, he says? What pressure?
For the second straight day, a Detroit reliever just couldn’t take the heat. Usually, the reigning AL Reliever of the Month is somebody you want to run out to the mound with a game-high 3.53 pLI, but after seeing the Sox four times in a two-week span, the magic simply ran out for Alex Lange in the ninth inning today.
Surprisingly, just edging out Burger’s walk-off blast was the Spencer Torkelson shot that gave Detroit their only runs of the day, a .225 WPA swing.
This was a twist on the anticipated: As Burger and Torkelson both managed unimpressive days apart from their dingers, Tigers reliever Jason Foley’s 1 1⁄3 scoreless innings were enough for a game-leading .179 WPA today.
Hardest hit: Javier Báez’s fourth-inning ground out was unremarkable outside of traveling a game-high 107 mph off the bat.
Weakest contact: His counterpart Tim Anderson’s 56 mph chopper against Will Vest in the sixth, meanwhile, was the slowest batted ball of the day.
Luckiest hit: Everyone got what they deserved, today: The .250 xBA on Andy Ibañez’s double was the lowest of any hit today, and it’s hard to chalk it up to luck, given the location.
Toughest out: Andrew Vaughn’s deep fly out against Foley had a .710 xBA, and would have been gone in six other parks. But on the South Side, it was little more than a routine out.
Longest hit: Torkelson’s homer landed at an even 400 feet, longest of the day.
Magic Number: 96.3
In addition to picking up a well-deserved W on National Cancer Survivor’s Day, Liam Hendriks (pitching on back-to-back days for the first time all year with the White Sox), saw his fastball velocity tick up to 96.3 mph today, nearly a full mph over his first two appearances. Health is a wonderful thing.
CSW called strikes plus whiffs
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 today?
This poll is closed
Michael Kopech (7 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, BB, 9 SO)
Jake Burger (1-for-4, GW HR, R, 4 RBI)
Luis Robert Jr. (2-for-4, 2B, 2 R)
Liam Hendriks (IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 SO)
Who was the White Sox cold cat today?
This poll is closed
Andrew Vaughn (0-for-3, BB)
Romy González (0-for-3, 2 SO)
Elvis Andrus (0-for-3, 3 SO)