NEW YORK -- Michael Kopech may not have thrown a perfect game in the nightcap of Sunday’s doubleheader at Yankee Stadium, but the White Sox right-hander still came away with one of the game’s rarer accomplishments -- it just took him two starts to do it.
On May 15, Kopech took on the Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field and retired the last 13 batters he faced, capping an unconventional six-inning, one-hit start. Then, in the White Sox 5-0 win in Game 2 of Sunday’s twin-bill sweep, Kopech opened the game with the same level of dominance, sitting down his first 14 opposing batters.
Put that together and it’s 27 batters, 27 outs. All against the Yankees (29-12), who boast the best record in baseball.
Kopech's true perfect-game bid did not come to an end until there were two outs in the bottom of the sixth, after he had retired 17 consecutive Yankees on Sunday and 30 in a row dating back to his last outing. New York catcher Rob Brantly broke that up with a double to the gap in left-center field.
“I just heard that actually. That’s pretty cool,” Kopech said. “... I felt like I got in a rhythm the last time I faced them, and then I started off in a rhythm today and tried not to lose that.
“I definitely was not throwing with my ‘A’ or even ‘B’ stuff against them at home. I had ‘C’ stuff, and it was more of a grind game. Today it felt -- I don’t want to say easy because it's never easy when you’re facing a Major League lineup, but it was definitely a lot more fun.”
And so, Kopech settled for a seven-inning, one-hit start. But he gave Brantly some grief for being the one to end his bid; they were Minor League roommates with Triple-A Charlotte in 2017.
There was one big difference between Kopech’s two outings, however, and it had nothing to do with his performance on the mound. The 26-year-old welcomed his second son, Vander, on Friday and was activated off the paternity list to make Sunday’s start.
“To be honest, my mind hasn’t been on baseball until yesterday, and that probably helped me quite a bit,” Kopech said. “So I mean, I was still doing everything I needed to do back in Chicago -- I was throwing, I was working out -- but I was definitely more so focused on the baby I had on the way. He came and he was healthy, and then I got a call that I needed to come back. So I showed up and tried to get refocused.”
Kopech did that and then some, earning his first victory of the season in his eighth start. Though the White Sox offense struggled to put runs on the board in support of him, that changed in the eighth. Andrew Vaughn and Reese McGuire started the scoring with a pair of RBI singles, but the big hit came from Tim Anderson, who capped the five-run frame with a three-run homer to right field.
It was a continuation of a strong start to the season for Kopech, who entered the day leading the Majors in opponents’ batting average (.137), slugging percentage (.171) and OPS (.419), among starters with a minimum of 35 innings pitched.
“I hate to sound cocky or anything, but I felt like everything was kind of working today,” Kopech said. “It’s kind of the first time this season that’s been the case, so it was nice to feel confident with every pitch I threw. I was able to get ahead of guys for the most part, and I think that helped me in the long run.
“I try to be perfect every time, and I know that’s never gonna be the case. But I feel like if I can hold on to that a little bit as deep into the game as I can, then I’ll be in a good position.”