Crochet deals, DeJong delivers to get Sox in win column

Righty collects first victory as starter; Kopech secures first save of career

April 3rd, 2024

CHICAGO -- pitched well enough to win against the Braves on a cold and windy night Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

came off the bench to make sure it happened with a pinch-hit home run in the seventh, and closed the deal in a 3-2 victory. It was the 2024 White Sox first win in five games, which includes three one-run losses over the weekend to the Tigers. It also was the first career win as a starter for Crochet and the first career save for Kopech.

Kopech pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth by inducing Austin Riley’s double-play groundout. He then allowed Marcell Ozuna’s second solo home run of the night in the ninth, but stranded runners on first and second when his 39th pitch was popped up by Travis d’Arnaud.

39 pitches is not a big endeavor for Kopech, who was stretched out as a starter at the start of Spring Training. But how did it feel for him coming from the bullpen, after throwing 17 pitches Sunday?

“It feels like too many,” said Kopech with a laugh. “It feels like I could have made it a little bit easier on us.”

“He’s well aware and everybody’s well aware now that he can come in for big situations,” said White Sox manager Pedro Grifol of Kopech. “He can come in and close a game in the ninth.”

Crochet (1-1) allowed one run on three hits over seven innings, striking out eight and walking one. He threw a career-high 93 pitches, with 63 for strikes, after throwing 87 pitches in his Opening Day loss to the Tigers on March 28. He also recorded 18 swings and misses and 16 called strikes, according to Statcast.

In two starts, the southpaw has allowed two earned runs on eight hits over 13 innings with one walk, one home run and 16 strikeouts. Those 16 strikeouts are the most by a White Sox hurler over his first two career starts, surpassing Dane Dunning (2020) and Héctor Santiago (2012), who each had 14. Crochet didn’t allow a hit until Adam Duvall’s one-out single to center in the fifth and showed this sort of control against one of the game’s best lineups.

“That starter was really good,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “You’re not going to see much better than that over the course of the summer. Even Kopech ending it up, those are two really, really good arms.”

“He started off with high-high velo, and then he started pitching,” said Grifol of Crochet. “He settled in and just mixed his pitches. And he was pounding the strike zone.”

When Crochet first began work on the move to the rotation this past offseason, he wasn’t thinking about four or five innings and handing it off to the bullpen. In the season opener against Detroit, Crochet felt good enough to go hitter by hitter into the seventh but Grifol didn’t want to take that chance.

During start two, Grifol gave Crochet the opportunity.

“It's cool,” said Crochet, who picked up his 100th career strikeout when fanning Ronald Acuna Jr. in the sixth. “I was talking to some of the guys in the dugout, since I got to college that's maybe the third time I've ever got to the seventh, so that was huge for me.

“Just nice to get back there because it was a little unfamiliar territory. To get there this early on, especially when we needed to win, that's awesome."

DeJong’s pinch-hit home run came on a 1-1 cutter off reliever A.J. Minter, marking his third career pinch-hit blast and his first since 2021 against the Cubs. The situation got a little tense in the last two innings, but Kopech, who topped out at 100.8 mph with his fastball, according to Statcast, stayed aggressive in the team’s first one-run victory.

“Especially coming off the Tigers series with the three one-run losses, it was big for us to compete and win another tight game,” DeJong said. “Good teams find the way to win in a tough situation like tonight with the weather and the close game and facing the Braves. It’s really just a great team win for us.”

“My approach was still to attack,” Kopech said. “There are going to be times where they beat you while you are on attack, but I would rather them beat me that way. Not giving in tonight was big for me and just continuing with staying on that bulldog mentality so to speak.”