Tuesday's performance wasn't Reynaldo Lopez's worst outing of the 2019 season. But it was perhaps the most frustrating for White Sox fans watching at home.
Lopez got plenty of support early in the first of a two-game series against the Washington Nationals, the White Sox offense scoring four runs off Stephen Strasburg in the first inning and adding another in the second. Lopez was handed a 5-0 lead after an inning and a half.
But it didn't take long for that lead to evaporate. Anthony Rendon followed up his two-run double in the bottom of the third with a three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth, completely erasing that 5-0 gap and chasing Lopez after just four innings of work.
It was another head-scratching display from Lopez, who was the White Sox most reliable starting pitcher in 2018. He finished that campaign in stellar fashion, with a razor-thin 1.13 ERA and 41 strikeouts over his final six starts of the season.
This time around, things have been completely different. After Tuesday's brief outing, Lopez's season ERA jumped up to 6.62. He's got more starts in which he's given up four or more runs than starts in which he's given up three runs or fewer.
As Lucas Giolito has transformed from, statistically, the worst starting pitcher in baseball in 2018 to one of the game's best through the first two months of 2019; as Tim Anderson has stepped onto baseball's national stage; as Yoan Moncada has bounced back from an ugly 2018 campaign; as the White Sox have seen an increase in wins as the rebuilding progress becomes more and more tangible; Lopez has gone in the opposite direction.
The White Sox entered this series in D.C. fresh off Giolito's latest gem and his being named the American League Pitcher of the Month. A positive performance from Lopez on Tuesday would have gone a long way toward backing up the feeling that the Adam Eaton trade ahead of the 2017 season was a coup for Rick Hahn's front office. It could still be that, of course, as the jury will be out until the White Sox are back in contention mode with Giolito, Lopez and Dane Dunning either a part of the rotation of the future — or not.
Tuesday was just one game, but it's been one bad look after another for Lopez in 2019, who figured to be in line to take another step forward after looking like a potential impact pitcher in the making during the 2018 season. He's struggling to find what made him so effective so often last year, and just like Giolito's routinely brief and damage-filled outings scrubbed him from fan and observer projections last season, now Lopez is being removed from those forecasts.
Certainly we've seen flashes this season of what got everyone so excited about Lopez last season. He struck out 14 Detroit Tigers on April 28 and called his 7.2 innings of one-run ball against the Cleveland Indians on May 13 his best start in a White Sox uniform. But outings like those have been the exception rather than the rule during the first two-plus months of this series.
There's plenty of optimism surrounding the White Sox rotation of the future thanks to Giolito, Dunning, Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease. But in a matter of months, Lopez has gone from a part of that confidence-inspiring group to a guy with an unknown long-term future. That's just the reality of the fluidity of fan opinion.
But until Lopez rediscovers the consistency he had through portions of his solid 2018 season, this will continue to look like a step backward among a group of players taking steps forward as the rebuild moves along.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.