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Sox power up for stellar Lopez in win over Cubs

September 21, 2018

CHICAGO -- Reynaldo Lopez has had his fair share of ups and downs in the midst of this rebuilding season. On Friday against the Cubs, Lopez seemed determined to end the year on a high note.The young right-hander went toe to toe with an impressive Cubs lineup, keeping the North

CHICAGO -- Reynaldo Lopez has had his fair share of ups and downs in the midst of this rebuilding season. On Friday against the Cubs, Lopez seemed determined to end the year on a high note.
The young right-hander went toe to toe with an impressive Cubs lineup, keeping the North Siders off balance in a 10-1 White Sox victory at Guaranteed Rate Field. Lopez lowered his ERA to 3.94 -- the first time since the All-Star break that mark inched under 4.00 -- while going six-plus innings and allowing one or fewer runs for the fifth straight outing.

"He's been working and working to get to this point," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said of Lopez, who already surpassed his career-high innings total in a professional season. "We're certainly happy with the way he's developed. Commanding the zone, velocity's still really good. He was pretty sharp today. He was pretty excited, so we're glad it went well for him."
Looking to spoil the Cubs' division title hopes this weekend, the White Sox knotted the Crosstown Cup series at 2-2.
Lopez started the afternoon off with a mistake, hanging a full-count changeup to leadoff hitter Daniel Murphy, who hooked the pitch inside the right-field foul pole for a first-inning home run. The long ball was just the second Lopez has allowed over his last six starts.

But after that, it was smooth sailing. Lopez scattered four other hits over his seven innings, permitting just one runner past second base. He struck out eight and walked none, notching his fifth walkless start in 31 tries this year.
"The first inning I wasn't creating the arm angle that I always do," Lopez said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "That was something that [catcher Welington Castillo], after that inning, he told me, 'Hey you need to create your angle, you need to make an adjustment because you're getting open when you're throwing the ball.' That was the adjustment that I did, and I was effective."
That downward angle Lopez referenced has proved effective for him over his last six starts. Lopez owns a 1.13 ERA in that span, walking nine batters and striking out 43.

"That has been the key for me," Lopez said. "I've always said I'm always learning. I'm always trying to learn in every outing and apply that lesson in the next one. My arm angle, my plan for every outing -- those are things that I try to execute the best that I can.
"I set my goal to finish this season with my ERA below 4.00, and now I know my ERA is below that number," Lopez added. "That's all that I want to do. I want to finish the season strong and finish with my ERA below 4.00."

Though the White Sox tallied a season-high 19 hits, Kevan Smith provided the biggest punches on offense against former White Sox All-Star Jose Quintana. Smith took the left-hander deep for a three-run homer in the second inning, giving the Sox a lead they would not relinquish, and led off the fourth with a double.

Daniel Palka iced the game with his fourth pinch-hit home run of the season in the sixth inning, setting the White Sox single-season franchise record. Palka's homer, his 27th overall, began an insurance-run barrage on the Cubs' bullpen -- the White Sox totaled 10 hits and five runs off the visiting relievers.
"It's kind of hard not to have fun when they were doing what they were doing," Renteria said. "The offense that they created today, it's kind of contagious and they picked up on each other. They enjoyed it. It'd be hard not to enjoy what they did today."

Yoan Moncada has nine hits in his last 18 at-bats and is hitting .333 over his last 19 games. Moncada went 3-for-4 with three singles, an RBI and a run, and Renteria said Moncada's play resembles how he looked before his DL stint in May.
"His at-bats have been improving over the past two or three weeks. I know, at times, we get so locked up in looking at his overall numbers and we overlook how he has been improving on both sides of the plate," Renteria said. "He's taking control of them a little bit more, he understands what he should or shouldn't be doing, and he's trying to make adjustments. Hopefully this is a little bit of a sign of how he'll continue to develop and move forward."

"We met last year as teammates. I didn't know that I was facing him today until this morning when I got the lineup and I thought, 'Oh, I'm going to face him.' It's always a good feeling when you're facing a guy like him. He was a very good teammate with me and when you're facing another Latino, it's always an extra excitement there, especially when you're facing a guy like him, it's good. It's a good feeling."
-- Lopez, on facing former teammate Quintana
The White Sox continue their Crosstown Cup series on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. CT. The club will send Lucas Giolito (10-11, 5.77 ERA) to the mound at Guaranteed Rate Field. September has not treated Giolito well, as the right-hander owns a 6.91 ERA in three starts this month after pitching to a 3.86 ERA in August. Jonathan Lester (16-6, 3.43 ERA) goes for the Cubs.

Max Gelman is a reporter for based in Chicago.