Tony La Russa had seen enough.
The White Sox manager hoped the break between innings might do pitcher Dallas Keuchel some good, but he gave up a single to start the next frame.
Keuchel threw one more pitch, a strike to Cubs power hitter Patrick Wisdom, and then La Russa signaled to the bullpen. Reynaldo López was the pitcher La Russa would rely on to stop the White Sox from spiraling.
“That was huge,” White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal said after the White Sox’s 17-13 win over the Cubs on Friday. “… It's great to see a guy that's able to come out of the 'pen and shut a team down and give us a shot to be able to make a comeback.”
López pitched five perfect innings in the series opener against the Cubs. He faced one under the minimum – Grandal threw out an inherited base runner attempting to steal in the second inning – in those frames. López’s dominance bought the White Sox time to make up 6-1 first-inning deficit.
“Right after I got the first two outs,” López said through an interpreter, “I told myself, ‘OK, let’s do it tonight.’ I could feel the energy on the team and the confidence that we had.”
Keuchel’s six-run (five earned), one-inning start was alarming, but López’s outing was just as attention-grabbing on the other side of the spectrum.
The versatility he’s shown this season could prove even more valuable in the playoffs. López gives the White Sox depth in the bullpen and rotation. If a starter is struggling early, no problem. Pull him before damage is done, and López can take care of the middle innings.
López was already writing a comeback story this year with his success in the bullpen and then two one-hit starts in mid-August, filling in for an injured Carlos Rodón. López wasn’t as sharp at Tampa Bay, allowing three runs in four innings. But Friday’s relief appearance was a high point.
“You learn from your experiences,” López’s said, “and sometimes you’re going to have ups and downs, but the most important thing is to learn from them.”
López’s improved vision, after his eye procedure in May, also plays a role.
“Sometimes I threw pitches with not a lot of conviction,” he said, noting that he couldn’t always see the catcher’s signs, “and that was where the problem began. Once they performed surgery, I gained confidence in all my pitches because I was seeing the pitch that the catcher was calling.”
He and Grandal, fresh off the injured list, seemed to be on the same page Friday night.
For the most part, Cubs have been a shell of themselves since a massive trade-deadline selloff. But not Friday. Keuchel wasn’t the only victim of a Cubs offensive surge. The White Sox used five pitchers Saturday, and four of them allowed at least one run. Closer Craig Kimbrel gave up two homers.
López, of course, was the exception.
“I’m 200 percent confident,” he said, “in myself and all my stuff.”