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Lopez shines, but White Sox fall on walk-off

@goodforball
July 14, 2019

OAKLAND -- At least the White Sox didn’t have to look hard or long for the salve that would ease the sting of another loss to the Athletics, who benefited from shortstop Jose Rondon’s ninth-inning throwing error to prevail Sunday, 3-2. • Box score Rather than dwell on the frustration

OAKLAND -- At least the White Sox didn’t have to look hard or long for the salve that would ease the sting of another loss to the Athletics, who benefited from shortstop Jose Rondon’s ninth-inning throwing error to prevail Sunday, 3-2.

Box score

Rather than dwell on the frustration of being swept in the three-game series, the White Sox could take heart in the performance of starter Reynaldo López, who allowed an unearned run and three hits in six glittering innings.

Lopez had maintained that he shouldn’t be judged on the basis of the 6.34 ERA he took into the game, which happened to be the highest among Major League qualifiers. He vowed to adjust his mental approach, which he said would prove to make a significant difference.

And Lopez was a man of his word. He threw 62 strikes in 93 pitches while walking two and striking out seven. Like a champion prizefighter leading with his jab, Lopez led with his fastball, and his complementary deliveries followed. He trimmed his ERA to 5.97 and refrained from allowing a home run after having yielded a Major League-worst average of 2.11 homers per nine innings. Matt Olson’s first-inning fly ball to the center-field warning track was the only batted ball off Lopez that came close to resembling a homer.

“I tried to keep my focus, no matter what, through the game,” Lopez said through an interpreter. “There was always something that put me off my game. … I would say the key for me today was, I didn’t let anything else bother me.”

Lopez, who lasted more than six innings in only one of his previous 18 starts, looked as if he could have worked into the seventh. But White Sox manager Rick Renteria, mindful of Lopez’s lack of durability, ridiculed that notion.

“If he had thrown 80 pitches, I might have left him out for the seventh,” Renteria said.

However, he maintained that Lopez had accomplished enough.

“If anybody’s questioning that, that’s not the question to ask,” Renteria said. “The question to ask is, how could we have scored a few more runs?”

Indeed, the big hit eluded the White Sox during the entire series. They amassed five runs and batted .158 (3-for-19) with runners in scoring position.

But neither pitching nor hitting ultimately doomed the White Sox, who are 3-13 against Oakland since 2017. Instead, their defense betrayed them at the worst possible time in the worst possible place.

With the score tied, 2-2, pinch-hitter Chad Pinder singled off Jace Fry (1-4) to open the ninth. Ramon Laureano, whose seventh-inning homer off Evan Marshall erased Chicago’s 2-1 lead, hit a grounder to Rondon, who flipped the ball to second base for an attempted force play. As Pinder slid into the base feetfirst, Rondon’s relay darted wide and skipped into right field -- which, like the rest of the outfield at the Oakland Coliseum, is spacious and supplemented with the Majors’ largest foul territory. Pinder skipped home to tally the winning run, which he scored easily.

“I didn’t have the best angle to throw the ball,” Rondon said.

Oakland nearly scored in the eighth, but White Sox right fielder Ryan Cordell unleashed a powerful throw from the bullpen to home plate that retired Matt Chapman, who tried to score on Khris Davis’ fly ball. Chapman reached for home with his left hand as he slid headfirst, but a video review determined that the “out” ruling stood.

Chris Haft has covered the Major Leagues since 1991 and has worked for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @goodforball.