MINNEAPOLIS -- Back in August, when Reynaldo Lopez's ERA was hovering over the 4.50 mark, the young White Sox right-hander refocused and had a talk with himself to concentrate on finishing strong through the conclusion of the 2018 season.That talk must have been a powerful one, as Lopez closed out
MINNEAPOLIS -- Back in August, when Reynaldo Lopez's ERA was hovering over the 4.50 mark, the young White Sox right-hander refocused and had a talk with himself to concentrate on finishing strong through the conclusion of the 2018 season.
That talk must have been a powerful one, as Lopez closed out his campaign with a 3.91 ERA, down from a season high of 4.72 on Aug. 19, after his six-inning effort during a 2-1 loss to the Twins in Game 1 of a split doubleheader Friday afternoon at Target Field.
"I said to myself, 'Hey, there is still two months to go, you need to do better,'" said Lopez, through interpreter Billy Russo. "I don't remember exactly what was happening, but I just gained more focus, and I started executing better with the plan and attacking the hitters.
"Really, one thing came to another and I started giving quality starts one by one, and I think that was the key for me to finish the season with an ERA under 4.00. For me, that was important, because that was one of my goals."
It wasn't an afternoon of perfect control for Lopez (7-10), who walked five against five strikeouts. Three of those walks came to open the sixth, and the Twins (75-84) scored the game-winning run without the benefit of a hit via Willians Astudillo's sacrifice fly. But the fact that Minnesota only scored one in that frame illustrates how Lopez has become more of a pitcher than a thrower, especially in this past six-start stretch -- all quality starts -- where he finished 3-1, with a 1.13 ERA and 41 strikeouts over 40 innings.
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"In my last inning, I lost focus and kind of my release point," Lopez said. "That was why I was a little wild. But I could work through it. I think I minimized the damage. When you are in an inning and you issue [three] walks, you say, 'Wow, that probably can be a big inning.'
"When you are able to minimize the damage and they just score one run, that's good. I said, 'Hey, forget about the walks, just try to execute your pitches.' And I was able to do it."
The White Sox (62-97) scored their lone run in the third on singles from Welington Castillo, Yolmer Sanchez and Leury Garcia. But they got nothing else against Twins starter Jose Berrios (12-11), who improved to 4-0 against the White Sox this season over five starts. He struck out nine on Friday, pushing him over 200 for the season, and he fanned 36 White Sox in 34 innings over the course of the season.
This Lopez-Berrios matchup figures to play out in the same well-pitched manner for years to come in the American League Central.
"Lopez is a talented kid," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We saw him hit 97-98 [mph] when he needed a little bit extra. He's got a nice changeup and breaking ball. It was a learning year for him. We talk about the White Sox and some of the young pitching they have to look forward to, he's a young pitcher on the rise."
"Pretty special kid. Nice mix of pitches. Breaking ball. Ball was diving, sinking," said White Sox manager Rick Renteria of Berrios. "He's got a quick arm. Just kept us off-balance. It was a nice duel between both those kids."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Near miss:Avisail Garcia looked as if he had a chance to tie the game in the eighth inning when he drove a ball to right off Twins reliever Taylor Rogers. The ball hit the top of the wall, but Garcia only ended up getting a single. He was replaced by Ryan Cordell in right in the bottom of the eighth, with Renteria opting to rest Garcia's balky right knee. Garcia is set for an operation Tuesday, and Renteria doesn't plan on playing him in Game 2.
"I'm looking at him now with everything going on," said Renteria of Garcia's slower move out of the batters' box. "I'm sure he thought the ball was out. And he wasn't going to try and bust it to do something extra, and I'm OK with it."
The White Sox are hitting .222 in September, their lowest average of any month this season.
HE SAID IT
"When you realize what kind of hitters they are, what kind of hitters you are facing, and then having a fastball like I have, you have an advantage. Now you know how to pitch them. You know how to mess with their mind, and to play with their weakness. That was all that I did. That's one of the reasons I said I'm a better pitcher now then the pitcher who started the season." -- Lopez
Lucas Giolito (10-12, 5.81 ERA) is scheduled to start in Game 2 of Friday's split doubleheader, making his 17th start on the road and fifth against Minnesota. Chase De Jong starts for the Twins, with first pitch set for 7:10 p.m. CT at Target Field. Giolito is 0-3 with a 5.60 ERA and a .252 opponents' average over his past five starts. He is 2-2 with a 3.82 ERA in five career starts against the Twins.
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.