Michael Kopech would be the first to admit that he has not pitched up to his capabilities this season. So on Friday night, he reminded everyone of just how good he is by flirting with a perfect game.
After the game, his dad took to Twitter to let all the White Sox fans who have been critical of his son know he has been keeping the receipts.
“So, all you idiots who thought Kopech was done, what do you say?” his father, Michael P. Kopech, tweeted.
His son has faced plenty of criticism this season. After getting lit up during the White Sox home opener, there was concern that he was tipping pitches. Since then, Kopech has adjusted his delivery, moving his glove higher and closer to his body. Before, he had his glove near his belt, which could have been one of the ways he was potentially tipping pitches.
His drop in velocity this season also had some wondering if he would be better suited moving back into the bullpen.
But on Friday, Kopech had his best stuff of the season. He retired the first 16 Royals he faced and allowed just one hit in a career-high eight innings pitched.
It would be very easy to point out that Kopech was facing the 24th-ranked offense in baseball. However, dominating against the Royals beats the alternative. You would also be hard-pressed to find a lineup that would have succeeded against the stuff Kopech was throwing.
“The fastball was jumping, getting on you for sure,” Royal’s second baseman Micheal Massey said. “And then he obviously paired it with his changeup and his slider. Just did a really good job attacking the zone.”
Before the game, catcher Seby Zavala recommended that Kopech throw his shorter slider instead of his traditional sweeper. Koepch took his advice throwing 20 sliders and drawing three strikeouts with it.
The Royal’s lone base runner off Kopech came via a broken-bat single from Micheal Massey on a 2-2 count in the sixth. Massey somehow managed to get just enough of Kopech’s 98.4 mph fastball to loop it over the head of Andrew Vaughn.
Despite giving up the hit, Kopech still faced the minimum 24 hitters and racked up ten strikeouts in the process. The 26-year-old became just the third pitcher in franchise history to throw eight-plus innings, giving up one hit or less, strikeout ten-plus, and issue no walks. You have to go back to Floyd Bannister’s September 13th outing in 1987 to find the last White Sox pitcher to accomplish that feat.
It was the second time in Kopech’s career that he had taken a perfect-game bid into the fifth inning. The last one came almost a year ago, on May 22nd, 2022 when Kopech was perfect through 5 2/3 in Yankee Stadium.
Kopech’s key to success was his command. He threw his four-seam fastball on 66 of his 98 pitches and was able to change the hitter’s eye levels throughout the game.
“It looked like he had good carry on his fastball,” Royals manager Matt Quantraro said. “We couldn’t catch up to it.”
Steve Stone pointed out in the broadcast that he arguably had as good stuff in his last outing against Houston but had trouble reining it in to find the strike zone.
In that start, he threw just 48 of his 94 pitches for strikes. The result was six walks, a hit batter, and just 4.2 innings pitched despite only allowing two runs.
On Friday, Koepch threw 65 of his 95 pitches for strikes. White Sox manager Pedro Grifol admitted after the game the Kopech would have had a shot to pitch the ninth had the perfect game still been intact.
Kopech is better when he is pitching with composure and confidence. He put that on display early. After nearly decapitating Bobby Witt Jr. with a fastball on the game’s first pitch, Kopech battled back from a 3-1 count to get a groundout. That set the tone for the rest of the game.
“I was able to find something that clicked tonight, both physically and mentally,” Kopech said. “The main thing that I talk about with Pedro is being mentally in control out there. I felt like I was able to do that… I’m certainly hoping that I can take this one with me for the rest of the season.”
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