It was a game of firsts for the White Sox on Friday night in Anaheim, beginning with their first win of 2021 through a 12-8 win over the Angels at Angel Stadium.
Michael Kopech pitched in a regular season game for the first time since September 5, 2018.
Tony La Russa won a managerial game for the first time since the Cardinals won the 2011 World Series over the Rangers. And Yermin Mercedes, who had only one previous at-bat, scored her first major league start with not just her first career hit, but her first five-hitter.
Mercedes joined Cecil Travis of Washington (5/16/1933) as the only Major League Baseball players in the Modern Era to have five hits in their first career start.
“There were definitely smiles everywhere. Most of them from Yerm, ”Kopech said about Mercedes’ big night. “It was really cool, man. I want everyone on our team to be successful and for a guy like that who has wanted to debut for a long time to come out and make history, it’s crazy. Is awesome.”
Kopech, who last appeared as a starter before undergoing Tommy John surgery, protected a 7-6 lead by pitching a perfect sixth and seventh innings in relief. The right-hander threw 21 of his 33 pitches for strikes, fanned three and peaked at 99.4 mph on his fastball, according to Statcast. He also mixed 10 sliders. The right-hander left after walking past Mike Trout to start the eighth, but Evan Marshall and Liam Hendriks topped the frame scoreless.
Friday’s effort marked Kopech’s second career victory in his fifth career appearance.
“I didn’t even know that I got the victory. I thought it was Foster’s, ”Kopech said, referring to Matt Foster, who nearly pitched from a jam in the fifth inning in relief from starter Dallas Keuchel, but allowed two inherited running backs to score on a three-base error and two outs by Adam. Eaton. in the right field. “That’s great. I’m excited about it.”
“The number one reason he was out there, we think he could help us,” said La Russa de Kopech. “The more he threw, the more obvious it was that we were going to ride it.”
Meanwhile, La Russa earned the 2,729th victory as manager and his first with the White Sox since 1986. The White Sox built a 7-1 lead behind José Abreu’s third career grand slam, which gave him 199 home runs. total. – but saw the Angels cut the deficit to one by scoring six runs (three earned) against Keuchel in more than four innings.
Hendriks got his first save for the White Sox pitching 1/3 innings with two strikeouts and two runs allowed on Shohei Ohtani’s home run in the ninth inning. He received an assist from Luis Robert in the eighth, when the center fielder caught Jose Iglesias’ long drive to right center field with two running backs and two outs.
So, it was a rewarding experience for La Russa, who will manage game No. 5,095 of the regular season on Saturday. But it was not easy.
“I’m excited. That’s why they keep score,” La Russa said. “For the guys to come out today and loosen up like we did, and for them to get closer, they have a really good team there, and for us to hold out, I took Some of the heroics of our relievers, it’s well deserved. I was so in doubt, I’m only now starting to enjoy it. “
After going 14-0 against left-handed starters in 2020, the White Sox improved to 1-0 against left-handed starters this season by defeating Andrew Heaney. The White Sox haven’t lost to a game started by a southpaw since Sept. 28, 2019, when Tyler Alexander started for the Tigers, though he did not factor in the final decision.
Regular suspects like Abreu and Tim Anderson, who hit home runs to start a five-run ninth, contributed to the left-hander’s current dominance. But Mercedes, who added four RBIs to his five hits, was a new addition of offensive power.
“So I don’t want to do too much,” said an ecstatic Mercedes. “Every at-bat, I want to stay in my space, stay there. You have a hit or two, just stay there, don’t do too much. That’s what I’m thinking about. “
“He made history,” Abreu said through interpreter Billy Russo. “We, as the White Sox, should be very proud of what he did today.”