White Sox

John Danks, White Sox offense struggle in loss to Rays

John Danks, White Sox offense struggle in loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- John Danks thought he was better than his line showed on Saturday night.

The White Sox offense wasn’t.

The Tampa Bay Rays did enough damage against Danks in the third and fourth innings to snap a five-game winning streak by the White Sox, who lost 7-2 in front of 30,451 at Tropicana Field. Danks allowed a pair of home runs and five earned runs overall as the White Sox lost for the first time since April 8 when he started the home opener. Brett Lawrie blasted a massive two-run homer for the White Sox, who didn’t manage much else against Erasmo Ramirez and three Tampa Bay relievers.

“The fourth was a little rough,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “There were some close ones in there he didn’t get it, and that’s the inning where they really got him.”

“We need to get something going. You can’t sit there and expect these guys to shut people out or give up only one. The offense needs to pick these guys up and get some runs going.”

While Danks didn’t allow any runs the first time through the Tampa Bay lineup, he struggled in his second go-round. Brandon Guyer got the Rays on the board when he ripped a solo homer with two outs in the third for a 1-0 lead.

Then the Rays broke it open in the fourth inning.

Evan Longoria singled and moved into scoring position when Desmond Jennings drew a walk after he took a close 1-2 pitch for a ball. Steven Souza Jr. followed with a one-out RBI single, but Jennings was thrown out advancing to third on the play. Brad Miller then blasted a 1-0 fastball from Danks an estimated 435 feet to right-center field to put the Rays up by four.

“I made a bad pitch to Miller,” Danks said. “I threw some good pitches down, didn’t swing, didn’t get a call, just didn’t matter. It’s the way it goes. It’s part of it. It’s baseball. But I certainly feel a lot better than I showed with the line that I put up today.”

Danks allowed another single, but retired the next eight batters he faced until he issued a one-out walk in the seventh and exited. The left-hander allowed six hits, walked three and struck out four.

The way the White Sox offense has performed of late, four runs seems like a big ask. It proved to be insurmountable.

After they scored nearly six runs per game in Arizona, the White Sox averaged four runs through their first seven regular season contests. Since then they’ve tallied 12 runs in five games as they wait for the bats of everyone not named Adam Eaton or Melky Cabrera to come around.

Heading into Saturday’s game, seven of the team’s nine starting hitters were batting .257 or lower. Through 11 games, the White Sox have a team on-base percentage of .284.

Todd Frazier is hitting .178. Jose Abreu is at .237, Avisail Garcia’s average is .171, Austin Jackson sits at .194 and the catchers are hitting .105

“I don’t expect these guys to be swinging this way all year,” Ventura said. “But right now, that’s the way it is, and you’re looking for guys to warm up a little bit.”

Ramirez kept them cool.

Working on a pitch count as he transitions into the rotation from the bullpen, Ramirez set down 11 of the first 12 he faced. He hit Abreu with a pitch in the fourth and Frazier’s pop up to the right side against a defensive shift turned into a double.

But Ramirez escaped the jam when Longoria made a great leaning catch two rows into the stands on Cabrera’s foul pop out.

It was only after Ramirez -- who allowed three hits in 5 2/3 scoreless innings -- exited that the White Sox got on the board.

Lawrie, who also singled, followed Cabrera’s one-out single in the seventh with a two-run homer off Steve Geltz that hit the C-Ring Catwalk and bounced back onto the field.

But Rays relievers combined to retire eight of the final 10 batters they faced to close out the game. It doesn’t get any easier for the White Sox on Sunday as they face Matt Moore, a former 17-game winner who has a 3.00 ERA through his first 12 innings this season.

“You’re going to have little lulls here and there,” Eaton said. “It’s not really a lull, it’s just baseball really. It’s not really falling our way offensively and that’s fine. Our pitching has stepped up. And if our pitching has lulls, our hitting has to step up. Our hitting has a ton of potential. The ceiling is extremely high. Sooner or later. There’s no worry here at all. Guys are going to come together and win the series tomorrow and keep this thing going.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

The White Sox top pitching prospect sits down with Chuck Garfien for a revealing interview at spring training. Kopech says he almost quit the game after he got into a fight with a Red Sox minor league teammate in 2016. He goes in-depth about his desire to be great, why meditating makes him a better pitcher, his failed PED test in 2015, comparisons to Justin Verlander, possibly becoming the future ace of the White Sox and much more.

Why Michael Kopech almost quit baseball: Revelations from the future White Sox star

Why Michael Kopech almost quit baseball: Revelations from the future White Sox star

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A failed PED test. A 50-game suspension. A fight with a former teammate. A broken pitching hand.

It all blew up like that for Michael Kopech in one calendar year.

And it was probably the best thing that ever happened to him.

“There have been points where I wanted to quit baseball. There have been points where I wanted to stop trying,” Kopech said Thursday in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

This was the breaking point that almost ended Kopech’s career before it truly began but would eventually change his life for the better once the storms passed.

“Everything felt like it was on me at once, and it was tough because I had just gotten through the suspension, worked my butt off all offseason, came back to spring training in the best shape I had ever been in, and then broke my hand the first day of spring,” Kopech explained. “More than anything, I was frustrated and knew I wasn’t making anything better for myself and I was ready to get out of there.”

How long was he in this mode of possibly quitting baseball?

“Probably a couple weeks.”

The PED suspension in 2015 was for the stimulant Oxilofrine, which has been found in supplements which Kopech says he didn’t knowingly take.

“We do have certifications that we’re supposed to follow. We’re supposed to make sure that everything we take or put in our bodies is certified, and I probably wasn’t as safe as I should have been on that. I do take responsibility on that, and I regret it. But it’s part of the past and I did learn from it, so I can’t be too upset about it now and dwell on the past.”

The fight wasn’t only with Kopech’s teammate. It was also with his roommate.  

“It was a good friend of mine I was trying to help out. Things went south and he took a couple swings at me and I took one swing back. It just happened to not be a very good punch,” Kopech said. “I’ve accepted that I messed up. He accepted it as well. I’m open about it because it’s in the past and I’ve learned from it. But I’m not too proud to say I made a mistake. Fortunately, he’s still with the Red Sox and doing well over there. I think it didn’t alter our careers negatively, but maybe we both matured quite a bit from it and somehow, someway altered it positively. He’s still one of my good buddies.”

To say that Kopech’s dream is to make the major leagues would be limiting. He has a strong desire not only to be great but to be one of the all-time greats.

You can’t always pinpoint where a person’s ambition comes from. Kopech thinks it was from his torturous year as a nomad, out of baseball with a broken hand and a broken soul.

“Everybody talks about that itch to get back to spring training. When you have that for 12 straight months, it just grows and grows and grows,” Kopech said. “There’s going to be adversity coming your way in baseball. Learning from the adversity off the field is one of the tougher things I’ve ever had to do. Having all that come at once forced me to learn from it. I probably was a little stubborn and hard-headed at first, but taking a year off baseball, all you have time to do is think, anyway. I put myself in much better positions, became a lot more mindful about the game, and I feel like it has a lot to do with who I am today.”

Partly what changed him, and frankly might have saved him, was learning how to meditate. It’s a practice he learned from Red Sox mental performance coach Justin Su’a soon after the fateful fight with his teammate.

“It put me in a mental state that I never experienced. It’s almost like a flow state when I pitch but a lot calmer, so I got hooked on meditating and it took me away from the negativity of all that,” Kopech said. “I realized that my mind is my most powerful tool. I got addicted to this feeling that came from me being a more mindful athlete rather than just a powerful athlete or an athlete that throws 100 miles per hour. It took me away from being this guy that’s one dimensional to the outside public and made me have a lot more self value than Michael Kopech the baseball player.”

Kopech meditates before every start. Where exactly?

“For the most part, I’ll go find a closet or empty room somewhere in the stadium where I can zone out,” he said. “But even if it’s close to the clubhouse and I hear a little chatter that’s fine because the type of meditating I do focuses a little on background noise and helps my mind get to the place where I need it to get.”

It’s become such a powerful tool, he believes it gives him a distinct advantage over the hitter when he's on the mound.

“It’s tapping into this part of your mind that most people can’t dive into, and what’s funny is pitching is like cheating to me. When I pitch, the first batter I see with the stadium full of people, I’m in that state. Most people have to work their whole lives to feel that type of dopamine rush. Whatever it is actually, I don’t know exactly what it is, but I know the feeling and I get it instantly when I take the mound. For me, that’s why I love the game because it makes me feel alive.”

It's a purpose and passion that has been reborn. Living proof that Kopech's mind is maybe all that matters.