Michael Kopech’s talent was on full display Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The Chicago White Sox starter took a perfect game into the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals.
Michael Massey collected the first hit for the Royals with a broken-bat single to right field with one out in the sixth.
“I knew that it was in the works,” Kopech said. “I wasn’t really focused on it. I was able to go right back to work (after the hit) because I wasn’t focused on it. I missed my location and he got a hit. That’s part of the game. I wasn’t perfect and it showed.”
He was pretty close.
That single was all Kopech would give up in eight brilliant innings as the Sox beat the Royals 2-0 in front of 20,329. Kopech and reliever Kendall Graveman combined for a one-hitter while facing the minimum 27 batters.
“(Friday) was Michael Kopech’s day,” Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “Pounding the strike zone, plus-plus stuff, 18 out of 24 first-pitch strikes. Just did a really, really good job.
“Made pitches when he had to, got to 3-2 a few times and made pitches. He was strong all night long. He was electric.”
Kopech received just enough offensive support. The Sox scored twice in the second — an RBI single from Gavin Sheets and a sacrifice fly to center from Romy Gonzalez.
Kopech did the rest. He struck out 10 and didn’t allow a walk.
“With the stuff he has, he can do that any night,” Sox catcher Seby Zavala said.
The eight innings were a career high.
“He’s got that type of talent,” Grifol said. “His fastball, it’s got another gear to it. (Friday) it might have had two. He threw some fastballs in fastball counts that he was able to get by good hitters.
“These guys have some good hitters, they’re young, they’re aggressive, they’ve got some bat speed. It was just one of those special outings.”
Kopech was sharp throughout. He went to a 3-1 count to leadoff batter Bobby Witt Jr. before the shortstop grounded out to third on the next pitch. A batter didn’t have three balls in a count again until the fifth, when Nick Pratto went to a full count before striking out swinging.
“It’s always good to take the focus of the work between starts and actually apply it,” Kopech said. “I felt like I was able to do that (Friday). The strike zone is a funny thing sometimes. You feel like you are all around it and you are barely missing and guys get to be patient with you. You start to hit the zone a little more and guys start expanding. That really set me up to be in good position.”
The fifth began with a nice fielding play from first baseman Andrew Vaughn on a grounder hit by MJ Melendez. Kopech then struck out Edward Olivares and Pratto. Kopech began the sixth striking out Hunter Dozier, the 16th consecutive batter he retired.
Massey, who went to Brother Rice, broke his bat on a 2-2 fastball while lofting a single to shallow right field. Jackie Bradley Jr. then grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Kopech struck out two more in the eighth. At 98 pitches, he made his case for pitching the ninth.
“I bargained for a little bit, almost just grabbed my glove and ran out there and waved off Graveman,” Kopech joked. “I understand. I had a lot of rest coming up to this one (last pitching May 12) 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.”
Graveman retired the side in order for his third save on a night Kopech said he clicked physically and mentally.
“The main thing that I talk about with Pedro is being mentally in control out there,” Kopech said. “I felt like I was able to do that. Mechanical things are always going to be daily tweaks that I can work on. That’s the beauty of having four days in between, so I can get to work on this stuff every day.
“But the mentality has to be something that I work on away from the park, no matter where I’m at. I’m certainly hoping that I can take this one with me the rest of the season.”