White Sox

Why López's start more important to Sox than offensive explosion

White Sox

In a classic divisional matchup, Chicago beat Detroit 14-0 Saturday night. While that score may trick you into thinking the Bears and Lions played one day early, that wasn't the case. José Abreu and the White Sox offense just did their thing again, as they took Game 2 of their weekend series against the Tigers.

An offensive performance like this has come to be expected from this team. Putting up 14 runs almost felt ho-hum, as crazy as it sounds. To give you an idea of how prolific the offense has been in 2020, Saturday marked the 18th time in 45 games that the White Sox have scored seven or more runs. The 14 runs scored Saturday were a new season high, but they’ve also scored 11 runs twice, 10 runs four times, nine runs twice, and eight runs four times. The kids can hit, and everyone knows it.

What we didn’t know going into Saturday’s game was what the White Sox would get out of Reynaldo López. After López was derailed in his first start by shoulder soreness, he was never able to get back on track. Upon returning from his IL stint, López battled command issues and couldn’t make it past four innings in three tries. His ERA and WHIP ballooned to 8.38 and 2.276. After declaring he didn’t know why he was pulled after 1.2 innings on Sept. 2, López was sent to Schaumburg.

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But then Dallas Keuchel went down with back spasms, and the White Sox needed a guy to take his spot in the rotation. López was given another opportunity.

 

Rick Renteria made it clear what the team was looking for when he took the mound again: quick innings.

“Efficiency, being able to get us a little deeper,” Renteria said when López was announced as Saturday’s starter. “I’ll have to go back and trace how long we can go with him, but hopefully it’s an efficient outing for him, whatever it is that he gives us.”

López delivered, throwing five scoreless innings on only 75 pitches - at one point retiring nine Tigers hitters in a row. He looked like the guy who was turning heads in 2018 and looked like a cornerstone for the White Sox future rotation. It was exactly the start the White Sox needed to save the bullpen for Sunday, and Rick Renteria hinted that it was enough to earn López more starts down the road.

“Today, what was better was my rhythm,” López said. “I had a bit of rhythm and I was able to maintain that rhythm during my outing… I think that when you have confidence and a good rhythm that things are going to go your way, because you’re going to be able to control the game at that specific moment.

“That’s what I did today. I feel much better. I’m a pitcher that needs to control my fastball, and my fastball was good today. It was a mix of different things: confidence, rhythm, my fastball. When I have control of all those factors, then I know I’m going to have good results.”

“He did a great job, he threw great,” Renteria said. “We needed that start out of him today and he did a fantastic job.”

“I thought his mound presence was fantastic today. Obviously he was doing a lot of good things. He was commanding a lot better. After the first inning, became more efficient. Worked very well, and it was important for him to do that. I think it was a boost in his own arm to build his own confidence.

“I just told him, ‘That’s the guy that I remember. That’s the guy that I know.’”

If Giolito continues to pitch every fifth day, and Keuchel goes back to his normal spot when he returns from the IL, then they will slot out to pitch in the final two games of the regular season with only one day off before the postseason begins. That’s obviously not ideal. But having a guy like López affords the team flexibility to rearrange their rotation to better prepare for the playoffs.

The offense will continue to play, although they still have to prove they can break through elite pitching like the Cleveland Indians deploy. Right now, the bigger concerns for the White Sox are how they can set up Giolito and Keuchel to be as fresh as possible for the postseason, and who can help eat innings when those two aren’t on the mound. López went a long way towards answering those questions.

 

“I don’t know (if I’ve earned more starts),” López said. “Wherever it may be, I’m just ready to help the team in whatever spot that they want me.

“Just being part of what the team is doing now is something that makes you feel good. It’s something that makes you feel that all of this process, that all of the endurance you have to have during this process, you know it’s paying off. It’s for sure a very happy moment, a very sweet moment for us.

“But it’s not done yet.”