Kopech brilliant in White Sox's 2-0 win over Royals

At first glance, Michael Kopech pitched well in his last start.

Facing the Astros last Friday, the White Sox's 27-year-old righty gave up only 2 runs on 1 hit while striking out five. But 6 walks ran his pitch count to 94 and Kopech was done for the night with two outs in the fifth inning.

Before Friday night's start against the Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field, Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz and Kopech had the obvious discussion.

"The biggest thing we talked about is strike one," Katz said. "Get strike one and control our counts. When you do that, it's a little bit better outcomes for him."

Kopech did just that, and the results were off the charts.

Not only did he flirt with a no-hitter that Michael Massey ended with a one-out broken bat single in the sixth, Kopech pitched a career-best 8 innings and allowed just the 1 hit while striking out 10.

Not only did Kopech face the minimum 24 Kansas City hitters, he threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of them.

"It's always good to take the focus and the work from between starts and actually apply it," Kopech said. "I felt like I was able to do that tonight. The strike zone is a funny thing sometimes. You feel like you're all around it and you're barely missing, not really filling it up, and guys get too patient with you.

"You start to hit the zone a little more and guys start expanding. That really set me up to be in a good position."

Even though Kopech almost hit Royals leadoff man Bobby Witt Jr. in the head with his first pitch of the game, catcher Seby Zavala had a feeling he was in for a special start.

"Yeah, he's got a great fastball and when he's commanding it like the way he was tonight, he's unstoppable," Zavala said. "We always talk about how good his fastball is and tonight it showed."

Kopech's heat increased as the game progressed, and the Royals never had much of a chance.

"Today was Michael Kopech's day," manager Pedro Grifol said. "Pounding the strike zone, plus-plus stuff, he just did a really, really good job. He was strong all night long. I think the last pitch of the outing for him was 99 (mph). He was electric."

Was Kopech thinking about throwing a no-hitter?

"I knew it was in the works, I wasn't really focused on it," he said. "Fortunately, when that (Massey's hit) happened, I was able to go right back to work because I wasn't focused on it."

Was he thinking about a complete game?

"I bargained for it a little bit," Kopech said. "Almost just grabbed my glove and ran out there and waved off (reliever Kendall) Graveman. I understand. I had a lot of rest coming up to this one but we are back on five days now and working over 100 pitches is hard to bounce back from. Definitely understood the move as much as I wanted it."

The White Sox scored both of their runs in the second inning, on Gavin Sheet's RBI single and Romy Gonzalez's sacrifice fly.

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