Michael Kopech's stellar start unrewarded in White Sox' collapse

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Kopech's stellar start unrewarded in White Sox' collapse originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Michael Kopech didn’t just spin his best start of the season Monday night against the Cleveland Guardians. He may have hurled the best outing of his major league career.

In it, Kopech tied a season-high by striking out seven batters, held the Guardians to zero earned runs — with one unearned run coming by way of a misplayed line drive by right fielder Gavin Sheets in the first inning — allowed two hits, and at one point retired 11 hitters in a row.

Better yet, he steadied the ship after struggling with his command early and matched a career-high by tossing six innings (91 pitches). The only other time he has reached that innings threshold in a game was in August 2018.

"First two (innings) I kind of felt like I was all over the place," Kopech said of Monday's start, which featured a 26-pitch first inning (with two walks) and 13-pitch second inning. "But after I made an adjustment I felt like I was able to give the team a chance. I'm happy with (the start), overall."

That made it all the more excruciating that the night ended with his sixth no decision in six starts this season.

When Kopech exited the game after six innings, the Chicago White Sox led by a score of 4-1. Between the seventh and eighth innings, they expanded that advantage to 8-2 with a Tim Anderson RBI double and A.J. Pollock three-run home run.

But a series of fielding gaffes and bullpen errors in the ninth led to six Guardians runs, which paved the way for a 12-9 extra-inning victory.

And while there were plenty of aspects of the defeat to bemoan, multiple teammates specifically opined the inability to come through for their dominant starter.

"Kopech looked phenomenal out there," said closer Liam Hendriks, who surrendered a game-tying grand slam to Guardians first baseman Josh Naylor in the ninth inning. "But, yeah. I mean. He's still decision-less this year and that's another thing that comes onto it. We had an opportunity to give him his first win of the year, and that didn't come to fruition because I didn't do my job."

Added Ryan Burr, who allowed a three-run home run to Naylor in the 11th inning that proved the game-winner: "Every single guy in here knows we played like s--- tonight, pitched like s--- tonight. We got to be better than that. That’s what it comes down to. Kopey went out there and did his job. Unfortunately as a bullpen we didn’t get it done tonight."

While Kopech's record remains a blank slate (0-0), he did drop his season ERA to 0.93 with the performance, the lowest of any qualified MLB starter.

That, combined with the length he provided, can be foundational moving forward, regardless of the result of one game out of 162.

"My goal today was to go as deep in the game as I could," Kopech said. "I would like to go seven (innings), but I have to go six before I can go seven. So today was a step in the right direction."

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