Reynaldo Lopez has been pitching like a man who is on a mission for the Chicago White Sox. That is a mission to earn a spot on the playoff roster. After his recent showing, he is building a strong case.
Lopez threw five scoreless innings against a very good Oakland A’s team that knocked the White Sox out of the playoffs last year. He stuck out four, walked two, and only allowed one hit. That hit came in the first inning but Lopez worked around that by inducing an inning-ending double play. He earned his first victory as a starter since 2020 in an outing against the Tigers on September 12th.
The most impressive thing about Lopez’s start was his efficiency. He only needed 66 pitches to get through five innings. He threw 41 of those pitches for strikes. Lopez did all of this while overcoming the emotional hurdle of seeing opposing pitcher Chris Bassitt get charted off the field.
"“When you see something like that, it’s hard to digest because we as pitchers, we know that can happen. It’s like, that could happen to me, and it’s scary.” Lopez said after the game through team interpreter Billy Russo. “Every time you see something like that, is tough to swallow. But at the same time, we know that can happen. It’s sad that it happened. It was really hard on me.”"
Despite the sad circumstances, López showed mental fortitude to pitch around it and has given the White Sox some unexpected depth in the starting rotation. He looks rejuvenated since being called up from Triple-A. It is a far cry from the man that had the second to last among qualifying pitchers with his 5.38 ERA in 2019.
The Chicago White Sox would love to continue seeing this version of Reynaldo Lopez.
After only making eight starts in 2020 and having his ERA balloon up to 6.49, it looked like Lopez’s days in the big leagues were over. He lost the battle for the fifth starter job in spring training and had a horrific 7.62 ERA in Triple-A Charlotte this season.
The White Sox needed arms and called him up for a doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins. Since then, Lopez has dominated on the mound. He owns a microscopic 1.08 ERA in 25 innings of work with the White Sox and has posted a 2-0 record. Lopez has also put up a 0.72 WHIP on the season.
Most of Lopez’s work has come out of the bullpen but he has been very effective as a spot starter. He hasn’t given up a run in his last eight innings of work as a starter and has a 0.53 ERA in his last seven appearances. In his three starts this season, he has a 0.82 ERA and 11 strikeouts. In those starts, opponents have mustered just four hits off of him.
"“I’ve been working hard physically and mentally to improve and get better to get to this point,” López said. “It has made a huge difference.“I feel in a very good position right now.” Lopez also said. “The biggest difference is that I have confidence in my pitches. I can throw any pitch in any count. I’m not afraid of missing a location because I have that confidence.”"
With a fastball that touches the upper 90s and a sharp slider, it is hard not to have confidence in his stuff. Matt Chapman experienced that fastball first hand as he watched as one blew by him at 97 mph for strike three in the fifth inning. However, Lopez’s slider was the weapon of choice on Tuesday night.
He pulled the string on one that dropped out of the strike zone past the swinging bat of Elvis Andrus for his first strikeout. Then he froze Matt Olson with a 86 mph backdoor slider. Sean Murphy swung through a high slider on Lopez’s final pitch of the night.
After losing a job and struggling in the minor leagues, it can be hard to find confidence. But López didn’t get discouraged seized his opportunity in the big leagues. The 27-year old right-hander has always had great stuff. In 2018, he had the best year of his career as his 3.91 ERA was the best amongst White Sox starters.
In 2019, he uncorked a 14 strikeout performance against the Detroit Tigers but for whatever reason, he has struggled with consistency. Now he is putting the pieces together and it has brilliant to watch.