White Sox

Miguel Gonzalez tosses seven scoreless to lead White Sox to win over Yankees

Miguel Gonzalez tosses seven scoreless to lead White Sox to win over Yankees

White Sox starting pitchers have been much more consistent in July, and Miguel Gonzalez continued that trend on Wednesday night.

The right-hander delivered seven scoreless innings, and the White Sox closed out their fifth straight series victory with a 5-0 win over the New York Yankees in front of 21,144 at U.S. Cellular Field. Gonzalez made his best White Sox start to date as he and two relievers combined on an eight-hit shutout. Tim Anderson doubled in two runs.

“The pitching's been great,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We scuffled for a little while. But I think when you're looking at it and we're trying to figure out where we're at heading into the break, I think we've been on a pretty good run. These guys have gathered it back together, and they're strong right now.”

They haven’t been picture-perfect as evidenced by Carlos Rodon’s struggles on Tuesday night. But after a long June, White Sox starters have shown signs of rebounding over the last six games. Starting with Gonzalez’s previous turn Friday in Houston, White Sox starters have a 3.00 ERA in 39 innings.

The team’s starters went 6-11 with a 5.97 ERA in 26 starts in June. They averaged 5 2/3 innings in the month and only completed seven innings six times. Four of the team’s last six starting efforts have gone at least seven innings.

“Every guy that goes out there, as a team you get a sense that you have a chance to go out there and win a series and win every night,” Ventura said.

Early on that sentiment seemed unclear as Gonzalez, who brought a 7.84 home ERA in four starts into Wednesday, struggled. He put two runners on base in the first, including a two-out walk of Brian McCann. But Gonzalez, who allowed two earned runs in seven innings on Friday, struck out Mark Teixeira with a 2-2 fastball to escape the jam. The strikeout began a span in which Gonzalez retired nine of 11 hitters.

One key for Gonzalez was strong defense.

Adam Eaton, who picked up his major league leading 13th assist when he cut down Jacoby Ellsbury stretching a leadoff single into a double in the third, Anderson and Jose Abreu all turned in nice plays.

“Gonzo pitched a heck of a game tonight, kept them off balance the whole game, hit his spots well and good defense behind him,” Eaton said. “When there’s good defense played behind Gonzo, he’ll throw good for you. He threw really well, and we’re really happy with that.”

Gonzalez, who lowered his ERA to 4.39, didn’t run into trouble again until the fifth inning. Didi Gregorious singled to start the fifth and went from first to third on Chase Headley’s grounder as third was left uncovered by a defensive shift. But Gonzalez induced a pop up off Aaron Hicks’ bat, and Ellsbury grounded out. Gonzalez retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced.

He allowed five hits, walked one and struck out three.

The White Sox did the bulk of their damage against Michael Pineda in the second inning, all with two outs.

Avisail Garcia broke a scoreless tie with a two-out RBI single to score Brett Lawrie, who started the rally with a single. J.B. Shuck’s ground-rule double produced a run. Anderson then made it a 4-0 game with a two-run double past the dive of Headley.

Lawrie’s RBI fielder’s choice in the sixth made it a five-run lead.

“We came out, played some really good defense,” Gonzalez said. “Our offense was there. I kept them in the ballgame, did a really good job changing speeds. (Dioner) Navarro did an awesome job back there.

“We have won five series in a row. ... Guys are loose right now and getting after it.”

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.

Carlos Rodon's first rehab start went well, White Sox set date for next one

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USA TODAY

Carlos Rodon's first rehab start went well, White Sox set date for next one

Carlos Rodon's return to the South Side is coming soon.

The top-five draft pick recovering from last fall's shoulder surgery made his first rehab start Saturday with Class A Kannapolis and threw well. Rodon allowed just one run on three hits in his five innings of work, striking out six and walking none.

The White Sox announced Sunday that Rodon's second rehab start will come Thursday with Triple-A Charlotte.

As for the exact date Rodon returns to the big league roster, it's unknown at this point. General manager Rick Hahn said that Rodon will make multiple rehab starts. One might look to the pitcher's recovery from a spring injury last year as a guide. Rodon made four rehab starts in June before debuting with the White Sox on June 28.

This recovery is different, of course. Rodon is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on May 28.