Michael Kopech doesn’t have a win yet in 2022.
But plenty of other numbers show how impressive the right-hander has been in his three starts this season for the Chicago White Sox.
Kopech had his sharpest performance yet Friday against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field, allowing three hits while striking out seven and walking one in five scoreless innings. He left with a lead, but the Twins took advantage of two throwing errors on one play to score the go-ahead run in the eighth and beat the Sox 2-1.
The late-game miscues wiped out what manager Tony La Russa said was “close to being the kind of win that gets you excited.”
At the top of that list of positives was Kopech’s outing.
“I had better command of my pitches (Friday),” Kopech said. “I was able to feel myself in my body a little bit better than I had my first two (starts). I definitely felt more comfortable out there.”
Kopech lowered his ERA to 0.64 — he ranks second in the American League in that category. Kopech has 15 strikeouts in 14 innings and is third in the AL in WHIP (0.79) and sixth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.6).
“Every start he’s improved,” La Russa said. “When you’ve got talent like that and you want it and you’re willing to work and listen, that’s a powerful combination.”
Kopech had to navigate through traffic early in his first two starts. That was the case again Friday when he surrendered a single to Luis Arraez in the first, but then he got Carlos Correa to hit into a double play. Kopech walked Jorge Polanco, but catcher Reese McGuire threw him out on a steal attempt.
“I think they did a pretty good job laying off some pretty close pitches (in the first),” Kopech said. “I got in my own head a little bit thinking I had some of those calls. Then I went back and looked and I didn’t. Just had to make an adjustment the next few innings. They took some good at-bats, and I just had to settle in after that.”
Kopech has shown that ability during each start. He struck out at least one batter in the next four innings, including two in the second and striking out the side in the fourth.
“Obviously the goal is to go out there from the first pitch on and ride that wave,” Kopech said. “Sometimes that’s baseball and you’ve got to see how everything’s going before you settle in. I settled in a lot quicker than I had in my first two (starts). I was excited about that.”
He credited McGuire with helping make in-game adjustments.
“Reese has caught all three of mine now, and he’s been able to see what’s working and what’s not out of the gate,” Kopech said. “The slider being a pitch that I usually heavily lean on, it hasn’t really been there the past two, so we’ve gone to breaking ball or when we’ve seen myself getting away with fastballs more often than not, we lean heavy on that.
“We did that a little bit (Friday). The adjustments are kind of a partnership deal, where if he sees something, we’re going to go with that. If I’m not comfortable with it, then I’m going to throw what I’m comfortable with. It was good (Friday).”
Kopech will have to wait until his next start to shoot for that first victory. Friday marked the fifth straight loss for the Sox, but Kopech is confident the team will turn it around.
“No one is concerned about this skid that we’re on,” he said. “It sucks. Nobody likes to lose. At the end of the day, we can look around this clubhouse and see what this team is made of and what we’re capable of in the upcoming games, no matter who we’re playing.
“I don’t think it’s anything to be really concerned about. We’re going to get our feet back under us.”