White Sox

Jeff Samardzija has best start with White Sox to date

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Jeff Samardzija has best start with White Sox to date

DETROIT — Before the missed call/no challenge mess in the ninth, Jeff Samardzija put together his best outing as a member of the White Sox.

The unofficial centerpiece of the team’s massive offseason overhaul matched Detroit Tigers ace David Price for eight innings on Friday afternoon before the White Sox lost 2-1 on a Jose Iglesias walkoff single at Comerica Park.

Though he constantly had to fight out of jams, Samardzija gave the White Sox a reminder why they sent a four-player package to the Oakland A’s to acquire him in December. Samardzija, who entered with a 6.23 ERA, limited baseball’s fifth highest scoring offense to a run in eight innings and struck out seven. Price held the White Sox to a run and four hits in eight innings, striking out nine.

“You get both of those pitchers hooking up like that, they are fantastic, both of them,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Jeff did a great job navigating through a lineup. And I think both sides were limited with what they could do because both sides were so good.”

[MORE: White Sox: Alexei Ramirez deems ninth-inning safe call incorrect]

Samardzija found himself in stressful situations most of the day, but managed to avoid trouble.

Detroit had a runner reach third base in the first, third, fifth and seventh innings, not counting Yoenis Cespedes’ fourth-inning homer.

But Samardzija found a way to wiggle out of each situation.

“If most proud of anything it was pitches with runners in scoring position,” Samardzija said. “They like to run and we cut that out, which I was happy about. That was a key going in the game. We were battling there. To get a couple ground balls here and there was huge.”

He stranded men at second and third in the first inning after Miguel Cabrera’s double off the top of the left-field wall as J.D. Martinez popped out and Cespedes grounded out to short. In the third, Gordon Beckham made two dazzling plays, one a throw to the plate and the other starting a double play with a great stab on a Cabrera shot toward the hole. Samardzija struck out J.D. Martinez to end the fifth inning and pitched around a leadoff double in the seventh as Beckham made a diving grab with a man on second. Samardzija then got two groundouts to end the rally.

“(Beckham) saved us a couple of times and made a nice play coming in,” Ventura said. “He can pick it over there.”

[SHOP: Get a Jeff Samardzija jersey here]

Though he only had three 1-2-3 innings, Samardzija got stronger as the game went on. He struck out two batters each in the sixth and eighth innings and finished with seven strikeouts. Samardzija allowed the one run and eight hits but walked none in a 106-pitch effort.

Price was just as good, if not better. Avisail Garcia homered in the fourth off the left-hander, who didn’t allow any of the other five base runners to reach scoring position.

“I always feel better the last 50 or 60 pitches of a game,” Samardzija said. “It’s a great team and I know from pitch 1 I had to have a great day to do what we wanted to do.

“I learned over the past few years when you’re facing the other team’s ace you have to be ready to go. You can’t make any mistakes and that homer to Cespedes was the difference in the game. If I could have one pitch back it would be that one.”

Daily White Sox prospects update: Zack Collins hits a pair of homers

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Zack Collins hits a pair of homers

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Double-A Birmingham

Zack Collins hit two home runs as part of a three-hit day. He drove in two runs, scored two runs and walked once in a 10-4 loss. Collins now has seven homers on the campaign with an ungodly .421 on-base percentage. He's batting .326 over his last 25 games. Eloy Jimenez had two hits and a walk, and Jordan Guerrero gave up four runs and walked five in four innings.

Class A Winston-Salem

The Dash lost both games of a doubleheader, 10-5 and 7-0. Luis Alexander Basabe, Alex Call and Gavin Sheets each picked up two hits on the day.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had a hit and scored a run in a 2-1 loss.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez had a hit in a 2-1 win.

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

Rebuilds are full of surprises.

Fans can pencil in any names they want into their 2020 lineups, but there’s almost no one who’s going to have a 100-percent success rate when it comes to predicting exactly what the next contending White Sox team will look like.

Reynaldo Lopez carried plenty of hype when he was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal prior following the 2016 season. He had a high prospect ranking before he was called up last summer. He hasn’t materialized out of nowhere.

But with names like Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon and others to compete with for one of those coveted rotation spots of the future, was anyone going to use the term “ace” to describe Lopez?

Well, in this rebuilding season’s most pleasant surprise for the White Sox and their fans, that’s exactly what Lopez has been. He’s been hands down the team’s best starting pitcher, and he’s making the case that he shouldn’t be considered an ancillary piece in this rebuilding process but a featured one.

He might not be getting the attention that others are. But he’s doing the most with his opportunity of being at the big league level right now. In the end, as long as you’re getting batters out, who cares how much attention you get?

“It’s not about what people say or what they are talking about,” Lopez said through a translator. “It’s about the confidence I have in myself, and I have plenty of confidence in myself. For me, I’m the best. I’m not saying the other guys are not. I’m just saying that’s the confidence I have. When I’m on the mound, I’m the best and I don’t care about the rest.”

Sunday marked the best start of Lopez’s young career, so said the pitcher himself. He was terrific in shutting down the visiting Texas Rangers, holding them to just two hits over eight scoreless innings.

It was one heck of a bounce-back performance considering what happened last time out, when he was roughed up for six runs in just two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The difference? His attitude, his focus, his intensity, his conviction.

“I just changed my attitude in the game,” Lopez said. “I was more positive today than I was in my last outing and that was one of my biggest differences.”

“I do think he came out a little bit more focused, to be honest,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The intensity level was a little higher today. I think he threw the first couple pitches 97, 98 miles an hour, where his last outing they were at 93, 94. There wasn’t a whole lot of commitment or conviction to his pitches (against the Pirates). I think, as we talked after the last outing, (pitching coach Don Cooper) spoke to him a little about making sure he brought that intensity that he has the ability to do, to bring it from Pitch 1 and he did today.”

Renteria liked it all, and he saw something different in his pitcher when he went out to talk to him with two outs in the eighth. Lopez issued a two-out walk, and Renteria considered lifting Lopez from the game.

Lopez made sure his manager wouldn’t pull the plug on this outing.

“I hid the baseball in my glove because I didn’t want to leave the game,” Lopez said. “I asked me, ‘How are you? Are you good?’ And I told him, ‘Yes, I’m good.’ Then he asked me again, ‘Do you think you are able to get him out?’ And I said yes, ‘This is my game, and I’m going to finish it.’”

What did Lopez do with his extra life? He finished it all right, blowing Shin-Soo Choo away with a 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Then he showed as much emotion as he’s ever shown on a major league field. He earned that celebration.

“When you see your manager come out and you’ve already gone through most of your game in terms of what you might think you have in number of pitches available to you, and you reiterate that you want to finish a particular batter because you want to get out of that inning, and you do it, it's an accomplishment,” Renteria said. “It's a big accomplishment. For him, pretty good hitter. He battled him and he was able to get out of that inning and complete a very, very strong eight-inning outing.”

It’s the kind of exclamation point on a dominant afternoon that could stir some big plans in White Sox fans always dreaming of the future. What Lopez has done this season has been a strong case for a spot in that future rotation and a spot at the front of it, at that. Following Sunday’s gem, Lopez owns a 2.98 ERA with at least six strikeouts in four of his nine starts.

There’s a lot of development and a lot of time left before the White Sox contention window opens. But Lopez pitching like this offers a glimpse into the crystal ball, a look at what could be for an organization that’s acquired so much talent over the last two years.

You might not have seen it coming like this, but the future arriving in the form of Lopez is a sign that brighter days are ahead on the South Side.