Kopech frustrated, but sees 'positives to take away'

June 20th, 2022

HOUSTON -- ESPN’s broadcast of the Astros’ 4-3 victory over the White Sox at Minute Maid Park on Sunday Night Baseball caught a moment of frustration from Chicago starter Michael Kopech in the dugout.

It was after the fifth inning -- a frame in which Mauricio Dubón’s two-run homer stretched the White Sox deficit to 3 -- when Kopech was caught on camera forcefully contacting something in the corner of the dugout as he left the field. It was a quick jab with his pitching hand -- the forearm/elbow area to be exact -- and while it might have been ill-advised, it showed the competitive fire stoked within this 26-year-old.

That moment also encapsulated Kopech’s disappointment with his first start since last Sunday at home against the Rangers, when he lasted just two-thirds of an inning, tossing 13 pitches before departing with right knee discomfort. 

“The truth is, I care a lot about this game, and I want to go out there and play to the best of my ability and be the best competitor I can be every time I go out there,” said Kopech. “I wasn't any of those things today. 

“I had to kind of be challenged with a little bit of adversity and a little bit of an emotional challenge. That got the better of me today. I don't know. It happens, I guess."

Kopech (2-3) was challenged right from the outset, as three Astros reached on singles in the first, scoring one run with Alex Bregman on third and Kyle Tucker on second with one out. But Yuli Gurriel popped out to second baseman Josh Harrison, and J.J. Matijevic struck out to end the threat. 

“There [are] positives to take away from today,” Kopech said. “I was pretty efficient for the most part. I was able to work out of some jams. But overall, it was not good enough.” 

“At times, he popped it [up] pretty good and missed a little a few times towards the end,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “Overall, I thought he competed like he always does.”

Dubón’s fifth-inning home run followed an opposite-field solo shot from Matijevic in the fourth. It was a "Minute Maid Special" into the Crawford Boxes, as it traveled just 343 feet and wouldn't have been a home run in any other ballpark.

“To be honest, the first homer [to Matijevic], not to take anything away from him, I know it was his first hit ... and congrats to him,” said Kopech. “But I don’t think that’s a homer at our park, and I’m not too worried about that pitch. It happens, it got out and I’ve got to live with it.

“The pitch to Dubón was a mistake. There were a few other ones in there, and they took advantage of mistakes today. That’s what a good hitting team does. You've got to be on the other side of that.”

The South Siders will wrap up the road trip with a 4-2 record, with La Russa’s crew sweeping in Detroit and dropping the series at Houston, where they have a 1-8 ledger over the past two seasons. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has steadfastly avoided talking about the American League Central standings or the AL Wild Card standings until his team gets to .500, and Sunday’s loss dropped them to 31-33.

Nonetheless, the White Sox sit five games behind the Twins and four behind the Guardians in the division, with a seven-game homestand beginning Monday night against Toronto and shortstop Tim Anderson set to return to the lineup. The team continues to search for overall consistency with 98 games remaining, especially at home, where it has a disappointing 13-17 mark.

Consistency seemed to be missing individually for Kopech on Sunday, leaving the right-hander with a stellar 2.38 ERA a bit bothered postgame after allowing four runs on seven hits in five innings and 75 pitches. But most importantly, he came out of the effort with his knee feeling fine. 

“I'm going to feel, I think, a little bit different for a little [while]. But there's no pain. I was able to compete with it. So it's good,” said Kopech, who topped out at 96 mph with seven swings and misses and four strikeouts. “I just didn't do my job today.  

“I've got to make better pitches and keep us in the game, and I didn't do that. I had us fighting the whole game. They fought hard all the way to the end. We thought we still might have had one there. I've got to do my job up front, and then they take care of it on the back end."