Chicago baseball report: Adbert Alzolay’s bounce-back outing for Cubs — and Michael Kopech leaves White Sox teammates speechless

The Chicago Cubs should have kicked off their nine-game West Coast trip with a series win in San Diego, yet Monday’s awful loss instead sent them into Thursday’s off day looking to regroup after dropping two of three games.

The White Sox return home after a trip where they not only lost six of seven, but also saw center fielder Luis Robert Jr. and third baseman Yoán Moncada suffer injuries.

Every Friday during the regular season, Tribune baseball writers will provide an update on what happened — and what’s ahead for the Cubs and White Sox. Want more? Sign up for our new newsletters.

Adbert Alzolay shows why Cubs believe in him with bounce-back outing

Short memories are a requirement for major-league relievers, especially those who get save opportunities — such as Alzolay.

Alzolay blew his second save chance of the season Monday night in a debacle at Petco Park when the Cubs squandered an eight-run lead, ultimately losing 9-8 on Fernando Tatís Jr.’s two-run homer off Alzolay in the bottom of the eighth. Manager Craig Counsell didn’t waste any time getting Alzolay back on the mound, using him in a nonsave situation in the ninth Tuesday in a 5-1 victory.

Alzolay’s stuff looked great — he tossed a perfect inning with one strikeout, fittingly of Tatís.

“They’re going to have outings when they give up runs, when they give up home runs, and the key is the next time you go out there learn from it and then it doesn’t have to be better it just learn from it,” Counsell said. “I think that’s what Adbert does and that’s what the good ones do.”

The loss of reliever Julian Merryweather for at least a month because of rib stress fracture in his back means Mark Leiter Jr. and Alzolay, in particular, need to provide reliability in late-inning, high-leverage spots.

Reliever Michael Kopech is leaving teammates Sox speechless

Kopech brought the heat Tuesday at Progressive Field.

The reliever’s first pitch of the eighth inning against the Cleveland Guardians was clocked at 101.2 mph and his last of the inning was 102 mph. He threw all fastballs while striking out the side, with 10 of the 13 pitches reaching 100 mph.

“My velo is back to where I wanted it to be for a long time,” Kopech said after the game. “Striking guys out is always fun.”

He returned for the ninth and had one more strikeout while retiring the side in order for his second save of the season in the 7-5 victory. Sox outfielder Dominic Fletcher said the outing “left me speechless.”

“Blowing heaters by guys is fun to watch,” Fletcher said.

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Kopech threw 24 pitches in the two innings — 23 fastballs and one slider. Manager Pedro Grifol described Kopech as “electric.”

“I love that type and style of baseball,” Grifol said. “ ‘Here’s what I’ve got, go ahead and beat me.’ Highly competitive situation and I respect that. He wasn’t trying to trick anybody. It was just here’s what I’ve got. Sometimes they get you and sometimes you get them, and that’s what he was able to do.”

The Sox decided to move Kopech to the bullpen during spring training. He has responded with a 2.45 ERA and 12 strikeouts in five appearances (7 1/3 innings).

“I told you guys many times I like starting,” Kopech said. “But to be honest with you, I like competitive baseball and being in a really competitive position and to close the door, there’s not a bigger moment in a game for a pitcher.

“So it’s a lot of fun.”

Number of the week: 1-9

The Sox are 1-9 against American League Central teams, their worst start since the inception of the three-division format in 1994. They are 0-3 against the Detroit Tigers, 0-4 against the Kansas City Royals and 1-2 against the Guardians.

Week ahead: Cubs

  • Friday: at Mariners, 8:40 p.m., Apple TV

  • Saturday: at Mariners, 8:40 p.m., Marquee

  • Sunday: at Mariners, 3:10 p.m., Marquee

  • Monday: at Diamondbacks, 8:40 p.m., Marquee

  • Tuesday: at Diamondbacks, 8:40 p.m., Marquee

  • Wednesday: at Diamondbacks, 2:40 p.m., Marquee

  • Thursday: vs. Marlins, 6:40 p.m., Marquee

Christopher Morel’s offensive maturation over the last year can be best seen during his at-bat that resulted in the grand slam during the Cubs’ 5-1 win Tuesday.

Morel certainly has been locked in through the first 12 games, posting a .298/.340/.553 slash line with three home runs and 10 RBIs. Just as important have been the three walks to seven strikeouts in his 50 plate appearances. In the biggest moments, Morel has tried to be the hero instead putting together a solid approach, which has led to consistency from at-bat to at-bat.

Morel credits his family and teammates for helping show him he is capable of being successful at this level.

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“Everything I go through the last few years, just be under control and be patient and believe in myself,” Morel said.

Veteran catcher Yan Gomes said everyone knows what Morel is capable of and that his teammates are in his corner, helping him behind the scenes.

“Credit to all the guys putting the amount of effort with him to make him become the hitter that he is,” Gomes said. “It’s awesome to have him on our side.”

Week ahead: White Sox

  • Friday: vs. Reds, 6:40 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Saturday: vs. Reds, 1:10 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Sunday: vs. Reds, 1:10 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Monday: vs. Royals, 6:40 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Tuesday: vs. Royals, 6:40 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Wednesday: vs. Royals, 1:10 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Thursday: off

Garrett Crochet returns to the mound Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds.

He has been fantastic in his first three starts. The left-hander has 21 strikeouts, placing him in a tie with Chris Sale for the most in Sox history through three major-league starts.

“He’s been outstanding,” general manager Chris Getz said Tuesday in Cleveland. “That’s a testament to his offseason, his determination and his ability to take advantage of an opportunity. He’s taken the ball and more or less gone in there and carved up some really impressive offenses and gone deep in games.”

Crochet is 1-1 with a 2.00 ERA, having allowed just one walk in 18 innings.

“It’s been impressive,” Getz said. “Obviously there’s a recovery component to this so we need to make sure he’s bouncing back and making as many starts as he can. We’re here to support him for that. He’s been a lot of fun to watch.”

What we’re reading this morning


“Solid for sure. Michael is off to a really solid start and a promising start for the season.” — Counsell on Busch after he hit a two-run homer Wednesday