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Lopez throws a 1-hit complete game gem

Righty bounces back strong from rough previous start
@scottmerkin
September 5, 2019

CLEVELAND -- The Reynaldo López who lasted only 2/3 of an inning on Saturday in Atlanta, allowing six runs on six hits, clearly didn’t make the trip to Cleveland. The Lopez who was on the mound at Progressive Field on Thursday afternoon threw a complete game one-hitter -- with a

CLEVELAND -- The Reynaldo López who lasted only 2/3 of an inning on Saturday in Atlanta, allowing six runs on six hits, clearly didn’t make the trip to Cleveland.

The Lopez who was on the mound at Progressive Field on Thursday afternoon threw a complete game one-hitter -- with a small asterisk next to that one hit -- in a commanding 7-1 victory for the White Sox over the Indians to earn a split of the four-game series. The right-hander struck out 11 and walked three, recording 20 swinging strikes according to Statcast, and he reached double-digit strikeouts for the third time this season. Those 20 swinging strikes were the third-most Lopez has posted in a single game.

Throwing 70 of his 109 pitches for strikes, Lopez finished off his first career complete game by retiring the last 16 Cleveland hitters he faced, and produced the first complete game one-hitter by a White Sox starter since Jeff Samardzija on Sept. 21, 2015, at Detroit. Take away last Saturday’s effort against the Braves, and Lopez has allowed one hit in his last 14 innings over two starts.

Box score

Of his Atlanta start, Lopez, through interpreter Billy Russo, chalked it up to “just a bad outing. I've been learning, especially this year, that you need to be consistent. You can't change your mind for a good outing or a bad outing. You need to keep your mind in the same spot and be mentally strong. I didn't change anything from my last outing. My mindset was the same.”

“Throws hard. Had a good differential of speed from his fastball to his curveball,” Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “He was around the zone and we had a lot of pitches to do stuff with, and nobody seemed to really get anything going [against Lopez].”

Ten of Lopez’s swinging strikes came off his slider, and the other 10 came off his fastball, which topped out at 98.1 mph, per Statcast. These last three starts serve as a great illustration of Lopez, in that he certainly has the sheer ability to dominate as part of a playoff-contending rotation, but he also can lose focus and look as if he’s more of a future reliever.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria looked at a more specific intangible behind the talent.

“All of it bears totally on execution,” Renteria said. “You miss with good hitters, they’ll get you. Today, he really came out executing.”

“We’ve seen him throw four or five [impressive] innings against us, but not carry it through the game,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “But it’s like all of a sudden, he’s realizing his stuff is good enough to play and they’re attacking the strike zone.”

Kevin Plawecki delivered the lone hit off Lopez, recording a two-out double in the second that right-fielder Ryan Goins had a play on. A more experienced right fielder might have had a better chance at making the tough catch. The drive scored Jake Bauers from first. Otherwise, Lopez was unhittable.

“I was playing kind of shallow,” Goins said. “Didn’t get the best jump, so [it] kind of sucks [Lopez] only gave up one hit and that was the one. I got to get him a little something.”

Welington Castillo paced a Jose Abreu-less offense with a home run and two doubles. Rookie Danny Mendick, who was part of Chicago’s September callups, earned his first career hit on a bunt with an 0-2 count during a three-run sixth. He also scored the first run of his career in that frame.

Mendick became the first position player since 2007 to earn his first career hit on an 0-2 bunt, per the Elias Sports Bureau. Only pitchers Steve Cishek and Felix Hernandez have done the same during that time.

“Wow. History, I guess. That's one way to do it. Not how you draw it up, that's for sure,” said Mendick, who kept the ball from the bunt single. “It was awesome. After the pinch-run the other night [Tuesday], it was great. I had a lot of fun today.”

These last three games in Cleveland marked the best stretch for the White Sox over the last two weeks. They rallied to beat the Indians on Tuesday, with James McCann’s three-run homer tying the game and Eloy Jimenez’s blast to right winning it in the eighth. And they fell just short of a comeback from an 8-2 deficit on Wednesday when Oscar Mercado robbed Jimenez of extra bases with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth to preserve an 8-6 victory.

Thursday was all about Lopez. About the only thing to go wrong for him was a Khalil Mack Bears jersey he ordered not arriving in time for Lopez to wear it on the team’s NFL-themed trip back to Chicago. Instead, Lopez was given a Steelers jersey, which he wore during his postgame interview.

“Any time you're on the mound and you feel good, you can think that's your best outing because you're feeling good at that moment, besides the results,” Lopez said. “Every time you feel good it's a good feeling because you're realizing that all the work you put in at that specific moment is paying out.”

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.