Bullpen can't close the door after Fedde's gem

June 11th, 2024

SEATTLE -- The numbers said one thing. The manager said another.

Yes, the White Sox suffered another heartbreaking defeat on Monday night, losing 8-4 to the American League West-leading Mariners on a walk-off grand slam by Cal Raleigh after taking a 4-0 lead into the eighth inning. Yes, the team fell to a Major League-worst 17-50 record after winning two of its previous three games. And yes, there are still three more tough games to be played at T-Mobile Park, followed by three more in Arizona on this road trip.

But despite the June gloom, White Sox skipper Pedro Grifol chose to focus on the one thing he says he continues to see every night from his beleaguered ballclub, and, on Monday, specifically his beat-up bullpen: fight.

Leverage relievers Michael Kopech and Jordan Leasure ended up wearing this loss, with Kopech giving up three runs in the eighth to tie the game and Leasure loading the bases before surrendering Raleigh's game-ending blast, but Grifol commended both pitchers in the quiet aftermath.

“Those two guys have battled for us all year,” Grifol said. “They’ve taken the ball in tough situations. Those guys are always pitching leverage, and that’s the job when you’re pitching on the back end.”

Unfortunately for the Sox, the result erased a brilliant effort from starter , who continued his resurgent season after he found himself in South Korea's KBO League in 2023. Fedde baffled Seattle’s hitters over seven innings, scattering five hits while striking out four and walking one.

Mariners righty Logan Gilbert matched him pitch for pitch until the top of the sixth, when Luis Robert Jr. hammered a fastball 403 feet into the upper deck in the left-field corner at 111.9 mph for a two-run home run. Lenyn Sosa added an RBI single in the seventh, and Corey Julks tacked on a solo homer in the eighth.

Meanwhile, Fedde continued to cruise. The only time he allowed two runners to reach base in one inning, in the seventh, he was able to induce an inning-ending double play off the bat of Tyler Locklear. Fedde was already at 92 pitches after seven innings, but Grifol let him start the eighth, and that decision lasted one pitch when Dominic Canzone homered and Grifol called for Kopech.

Fedde still lowered his season ERA to 3.10. In his last 11 starts, the right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA.

“I love that my manager has the belief in me to have the ball,” Fedde said. “I would have thrown as many [pitches] as I could have. … I want the ball as much as I can.”

But Kopech couldn’t get the job done.

Kopech averaged 98.3 mph with his fastball, down a few ticks from his regular zone of 100 mph, which he said led to him overthrowing. Kopech was greeted by a Ryan Bliss single, then walked J.P Crawford and surrendered a base hit to Josh Rojas to load the bases. He battled back in a big way, striking out Julio Rodríguez and Raleigh in succession, but a two-run single by Mitch Haniger on an 0-2 pitch, with Kopech straining to get back to 100 mph, got the Mariners within a run, and an unlikely but successful bunt single off the bat of the next hitter, Luke Raley, tied it.

Leasure walked two batters in the ninth and gave up a Rodríguez base hit before Raleigh ended it.

“To be blunt, Fedde pitched his [tail] off, and I kind of gave away a really well-played game by us,” Kopech said. “I had a chance to get out of it in a couple scenarios there, and the results of me overthrowing instead of pitching kind of gave them the opportunity to put some runs on the board.

“I made the leverage higher and higher by not executing," said Kopech. "Just not doing my job there is disappointing, to say the least.”