Checking boxes. That’s the objective for Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech as they and eager Sox fans await their arrival on the South Side. Many wonder how many boxes are left to check for the White Sox top two prospects, and if Tuesday night was any indicator, the answer is not many.
Coming off what many thought would be his final start in Triple-A, Michael Kopech continued his stretch of Triple-A dominance. Coming into tonight, Kopech had struck out 24 batters while only walking three in his past three starts. Walks and control in general were a major box for Kopech to check coming into the season before he would see the majors. It appears he has solved the control issues which bothered him early in his professional baseball career.
Tonight Kopech threw 95 pitches, 65 of them for strikes, and only walked two batters. Even more encouraging is the fact he mixed in an array of devastating breaking pitches that produced a bevy of swings and misses and weak contact. Adding breaking pitches was another box Kopech needed to check before being called up, and if tonight is any indication, he has taken another major step in that department. His changeup and curveball offerings tonight were no doubt major league quality, and he went to those pitches in big situations. Something he was not doing earlier in the year.
As will always be the case with Kopech though, his fastball was his premier offering tonight. Consistently sitting between 95-97 miles per hour, and at times hitting 98, his fastball was his go to pitch tonight. He was clearly overpowering the overwhelmed Norfolk hitters on his way eight strikeouts.
Kopech found himself in some trouble in the third and fourth innings, as his control drifted a bit. Both of his walks came on back to back batters in the third. Kopech managed to work out of every jam he found himself in the middle innings, and upon leaving the mound for the final time in the seventh, he had retired 12 straight batters. As for the two runs Kopech allowed, both came on mistakes to former Pirates All-Star, Pedro Alvarez. Aside from Alvarez, no one in the Norfolk lineup could really solve Kopech. A truly impressive outing from one of the brightest pitching prospects in baseball.
Final Line: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 95 pitches, 65 strikes.
Unfortunately despite his glowing start, Kopech was forced to settle for the no decision, as the Knights lineup could only scratch across two runs against the Norfolk pitching staff. Part of the Knights issues were due to an uncharacteristic slow night for Eloy Jimenez. Entering the night flirting with a .400 batting average and riding a 10 game hitting streak, it just wasn’t Eloy’s night. The team’s top prospect went 0-5, striking out once, and reaching on an error in the sixth inning. Eloy nearly connected with two pitches in that sixth inning at bat, but both balls turned out just to be monster fouls. Perhaps an 0-5 night is the sort of adversity Rick Hahn would like to see Eloy Jimenez fight through before being called up.
Eloy had another opportunity in the bottom of the 11th to tie or possibly win the game with Charlotte down one run and a runner on second. But as it was all night, it was not his night as he struck out on a nasty knuckleball. Charlotte would ultimately fall 4-3.
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