White Sox show Tigers flash of their future, take three out of four
Detroit — On the day the Tigers honored a slice of their past — retiring Alan Trammell’s No. 3 — they got their first look at what could become a persistent pain in their near future.
The Tigers got their first glimpse of the top pitching prospect for the White Sox on Sunday, and right-hander Michael Kopech came as advertised.
"The kid was winging it up there pretty good," said Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire.
Rated the No. 13 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, Kopech limited the Tigers to a run over six innings, earning his first major-league win, 7-2, as the White Sox took three out of four from the Tigers at Comerica Park this weekend.
"His breaking ball wasn't great, but his fastball was in the mid-90s and he's an impressive kid. He's pretty athletic. His change-up, he's probably going to need to work on that, but with that arm, he could get away with some of those things."
Kopech, whose fastball topped out at 98.5 mph, breezed through five innings, allowing three singles. He got himself into trouble in the fourth inning by hitting both Nick Castellanos and Mikie Mahtook around a single by Jim Adduci.
The control lapse was uncharacteristic. With his six innings of work Sunday, he hasn’t walked a batter in 32 innings, including his last four starts in Triple-A.
But he got Ronny Rodriguez to fly out and stranded the three runners.
"It sounds silly to say when I get a win in just my second big-league game, but I didn't have my best stuff," Kopech said. "But it is good to know that without my best stuff I can still get hitters out.
"I never felt out of control out there. But at the same time, I wasn't too comfortable, either."
Kopech seemed to tire a bit in the sixth. He was facing the Tigers lineup a third time and was over 70 pitches. His fastball velocity was down and his secondary pitches weren’t as sharp. Still, he managed to limit the damage.
Back-to-back doubles by Castellanos and Victor Martinez got the Tigers on the board. Singles by Adduci and Mahtook loaded the bases with one out. Up again was Rodriguez.
Kopech fell behind 3-0. But he came back and induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 double-play.
He may not be much fun to face three or four times a season in the next bunch of years.
"He's got good stuff," Tigers catcher James McCann said. "He's only going to get better."
If Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann doesn't see the White Sox again the rest of the year, it'll be too soon. It was the fourth time he's faced them, the second time in 11 days, and they've beaten up every time.
After getting tagged for five runs in six innings Sunday, he's now allowed the White Sox 21 runs in 19.1 innings.
"It's not like I pitched horribly," Zimmermann said. "I was just around the zone too much and they swing at everything."
All five runs against him came with two outs, four in the fatal third inning.
After the first two hitters singled, Zimmermann caught a soft liner by Yolmer Sanchez and turned it into a fast double-play, catching Nicky Delmonico off second base. But three batters later, the White Sox were up 4-0.
Tim Anderson doubled, Avisail Garcia ripped a two-run single and Daniel Palka hit a two-run home run inside the right-field foul pole.
"For a few starts before the All-Star break and after the All-Star break, I feel like I've pitched well -- other than the two starts against the White Sox," Zimmermann said.
The White Sox put it out of reach with two more runs in the seventh off reliever Buck Farmer, one of the sloppiest innings the Tigers have played in a while.
They allowed Adam Engel to steal third uncontested. Then it looked like they had a chance to cut him down at the plate on a shallow sacrifice fly to left by Anderson. Mikie Mahtook’s throw was on line and in time, but it bounced over McCann's glove.
"It took a bad hop," Gardenhire said. "It shot straight up in the air. Mac went down to get it and it didn't skip at all. It hit hard ground and shot over his head. Not much he could do."
The runner from first, Sanchez, went all the way to third. He would score on a bases loaded walk by lefty Josh Smoker, just called up from Toledo.
Smoker settled in, striking out a pair in a clean eighth inning.
Since it was Trammell’s day, it was only fitting that there be some stellar defensive plays from the shortstop position. Rodriguez, starting in place of Jose Iglesias (rest), made two of them.
He ended the fourth inning with a long running catch, back to the infield, of a pop-up by Delmonico. Rodriguez was playing in and alone on the left side of the infield in the Tigers’ defensive shift. He ran some 90 feet and made the catch over his shoulder with a lunge, stumble and slide.
Then, leading off the fifth inning, Engel hit a ground ball into hole at shortstop, just out of the reach of third baseman Jeimer Candelario. Rodriguez backhanded the ball and threw a flat-footed seed to first base, getting Engel by a half-step.
Rodriguez's final act of the day was to hit his second home run of the year, a solo shot in the ninth inning.