Darrell Hammond does a great Bill Clinton. Will Ferrell does a great George W. Bush. And Reynaldo Lopez does a great Jose Quintana.
Lopez obviously isn’t trying to impersonate the former White Sox starting pitcher now throwing on the North Side of town, but the resemblance, at least in the box score, has been uncanny through Lopez’s first four outings of the 2018 season — for better or for worse.
The better is what’s most promising for the rebuilding White Sox. Quintana was an All-Star pitcher before he was shipped to the Cubs in last summer’s crosstown swap. Maybe Lopez could earn similar recognition this summer, as there’s little argument that he’s been the White Sox best pitcher in the early going this season.
He dropped his ERA to 1.50 with five innings of one-run ball Sunday. That sparkling ERA, one of the 10 lowest among American League starting pitchers, comes from allowing just four earned runs in 25 innings of work. His strikeout-to-walk ratio could use some improvement, with 23 punch outs and 15 free passes on the year.
Sunday was more of the good stuff, with the visiting Houston Astros — the defending champs, mind you — doing little damage on the scoreboard against Lopez, even though he put a bunch of guys on base, including four via the walk. It’s quite impressive considering what the same lineup did to his teammates in the two days prior, scoring seven runs against James Shields on Friday and nine against Lucas Giolito on Saturday. Lopez also admitted he had a pretty nasty stomachache that he pitched through Sunday.
“I feel good about my performance today," Lopez said. "I wasn’t feeling very good physically, have a stomachache. But I felt good during the game. My focus was just to try to get guys out, and I think in that manner, it was good.”
But in true Quintanian fashion, Lopez received just one run of support and remains winless on the campaign despite four very solid performances. Sunday, Lopez left with the score tied at 1. The White Sox ended up losing 7-1 in the third of three blowout losses this weekend to one of the best teams in the game.
Quintana, perhaps even more than for his pitching prowess, was known for his ridiculously bad luck when it came to run support. It’s why he didn’t rack up way more wins than he should have during his time on the South Side and perhaps why he didn’t get the same recognition as his fellow All-Star rotation-mate Chris Sale.
Unfortunately for Lopez, he’s following a similar trend.
In the four games Lopez has started this season, the White Sox have scored a total of four runs. And last year wasn’t much better while he was on the mound. He logged quality starts in three of his first four outings after coming up from Triple-A in mid August but didn’t get his first win with the White Sox until his fifth start. He won just three games despite recording quality starts in five of his eight outings.
None of this means Lopez won’t start racking up wins once the White Sox reach the apex of their rebuilding effort and plan on being perennial contenders. When players like Eloy Jimenez, Micker Adolfo, Luis Robert, Luis Alexander Basabe and more join this lineup, the run-support issue might not be an issue at all. Heck, that can all change long before those guys get to the South Side.
Right now, the White Sox have to be thrilled about what they’re seeing from Lopez, who along with Giolito came into the 2018 season as a young pitcher expected to make strides in his development at the major league level. While Giolito has struggled at the outset of the campaign, Lopez has done the opposite.
“It’s impressive for anyone, and in particular against a club like this that he faced today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “At the end of the day, it’s about execution and performance, and today he executed well enough to contain them to one run through five innings. He kept us in the ballgame.”
The rotation of the future is a crowded one, with Lopez, Giolito, Carson Fulmer, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Dylan Cease and Dane Dunning all battling for spots. Lopez has plenty of time to make his case, though he’s off to a great start in doing so.
“I’m always trying to improve, I’m always trying to make adjustments,” he said. “If I had a good outing, what I did in that outing, what I can do better for the next one. I’m always trying to improve and to find ways to get better. I think that’s the only way that you can be successful at this level.”