CLEVELAND (AP) — Michael Kopech began the season with the worst month of his major league career. Since then, the right-hander has been almost unhittable.
Kopech struck out nine and allowed two hits over seven dominant innings, and Romy González had a two-run double for the Chicago White Sox in a 6-0 victory over the Cleveland Guardians on Wednesday.
“We’re starting to cook and we’re starting to flow,” Kopech said. “It’s no secret we’re having to dig out of a rut, so to come out with another series win is big. We know we can win this division.”
Kopech (3-4), who retired the first 16 batters in his last start against Kansas City, did not allow a baserunner until Josh Naylor singled leading off the fifth. He walked one and extended his shutout streak to 15 innings in his last two outings, helping Chicago climb to 21-30 — a game behind Cleveland for third in the AL Central.
The Guardians only pushed one player into scoring position and were blanked for the sixth time. Andrés Giménez had the other hit off Kopech, who held the Royals and Cleveland to a combined three singles while striking out 19 in back-to-back wins.
“This is who he is, just a great performance,” White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “There is no wasted time. Every pitch is important. Kopech was in complete control of himself.”
In the month of May, Kopech is 3-1 with a 1.99 ERA in five starts, striking out 33 while surrendering just 13 hits in 31 2/3 innings. The turnaround has been dramatic after posting an 0-3 record and 7.01 ERA in April.
“He had a real good fastball again, and he kept with it and it kept working,” Chicago catcher Seby Zavala said. “And his changeup is like an equalizer because it keeps everyone honest.”
González’s drive into the right-field corner highlighted a five-run fourth against Guardians starter Cal Quantrill (2-3). Jake Burger and Zavala added sacrifice flies in the inning as the White Sox went up by six.
Reynaldo López and Jimmy Lambert wrapped up the combined four-hitter for Chicago, which is 7-2 since falling a season-low 14 games below .500 on May 14. The White Sox won their third straight series by taking two of three from the Guardians.
Quantrill entered the year with a perfect 14-0 record at Progressive Field but lost for the third time in four home decisions. The right-hander went four innings, giving up four hits and a season-high six earned runs, one of them on a wild pitch.
“My worst outing in a couple years,” Quantrill said. “I just really didn’t command any of my pitches today.”
Giménez had a pair of hits and was thrown out trying to advance for the Guardians, who are 12-22 after starting the season with a 9-6 record. The defending AL Central champions have lost six of their eight home series.
“We’re all getting tested and I believe we’re tough enough to fight through this,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “We’re going to find out because we are getting tested. All of us.”
Tim Anderson singled home Clint Frazier in the third to open the scoring. Former Cleveland first-round pick Frazier had two runs, singled and stole a base.
Guardians RHP Aaron Civale, who has been on the injured list since April 7 with a left oblique strain, met with Francona to determine the next step in his rehabilitation process.
Civale has made two starts for Triple-A Columbus, allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings, on his way to rejoining the rotation. Francona said they are planning his schedule in five-day increments.
White Sox: OF Luis Robert Jr. (right quadriceps) was held out of the lineup after exiting the game Tuesday, but doesn’t plan on missing additional time. “I’m very good,” Robert said. “I did everything today. I’m good.”
Guardians: RHP Cody Morris (right shoulder strain), who has not pitched this season, was scheduled to make his initial rehab appearance for Double-A Akron on Wednesday night. Morris made five starts for Cleveland last year.
White Sox: RHP Lucas Giolito (3-3, 3.62 ERA) works Thursday against Detroit as the teams begin a four-game set at Comerica Park.
Guardians: RHP Shane Bieber (3-3, 3.08 ERA) takes the hill Friday in the opener of a three-game home series against St. Louis.