Johnny Cueto was terrific in Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader against the New York Yankees.
Michael Kopech was even better in Game 2 when the Chicago White Sox swept the doubleheader, beating the Yankees 3-1 5-0.
“What a day,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said.
Cueto allowed six hits over six shutout innings at Yankee Stadium, but he didn’t take the decision into account. The Sox gave up a late lead only to respond with two in the ninth for the Game 1 victory.
Kopech retired the first 17 batters in Game 2. Rob Brantly broke up the perfect game with a two-out double in the sixth.
“I felt like everything was working today,” said Kopech, who lowered his ERA to 1.29. “The first time this season that has been the case. It was nice to go out there and feel confident with every pitch I made.
“I try to be perfect every time and I know that will never be the case, but I feel like if I can hang on to that little bit as deep into the game as I can, then I’ll be in a good position. . And I was able to do that for much of the day.”
Kopech, who returned from the paternity leave list after the birth of his second son, Vander, on Friday, allowed one hit with six strikeouts and two walks in seven shutout innings.
“Kopech made so many great releases and mixed them really well,” La Russa said. “He had so much command. When you see that, I don’t care how good the hitters are, they’re going to have a rough time.”
The Sox scored five with two outs in the eighth on RBI hits by Andrew Vaughn and Reese McGuire and a three-run homer by shortstop Tim Anderson, his third hit of the game.
“This guy is as good as anyone who plays that position and he’s one of the best players in baseball,” La Russa said of Anderson.
Vaughn came out with two outs, singled to center off Jonathan Loáisiga to bring home José Abreu. McGuire followed up with another single, bringing in Adam Engel.
Anderson, who was booed throughout the night by Yankees fans after Saturday’s words with Josh Donaldson and a bench-clearing incident, then homered off Miguel Castro.
“Tim will show up every day ready to play and lead this team,” Kopech said. “And he did it again tonight.”
In the first game, AJ Pollock put the Sox ahead in the ninth with a leadoff home run to left field on a 1-0 fastball by Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman.
“You have to stay short with him,” Pollock said. “He’s got good speed, good cut on his fastball, so he just tried to hit a line drive and it worked.”
Vaughn walked with one out, went to second on a wild pitch and third on a pass before scoring on Engel’s double, making it 3-1. Liam Hendriks struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 13th save.
It was a nice comeback performance by the Red Sox after the Yankees tied the score at 1 in the eighth when Aaron Judge homered to left field on a 0-2 sinker off reliever Kendall Graveman.
The Yankees had two on base with one out in the inning, but Graveman rallied for Donaldson to fly to center and Aaron Hicks to third.
“Most of the time when you do that, you lose focus and there’s another race on the board,” La Russa said of Graveman. “He got zero afterwards, he gave us a chance to win.”
Cueto put the Sox in a great position early on.
“I had a good command of all my pitches today and they had really good movement and I was able to get them up and down the zone,” Cueto, who was receiving fluids after Game 1, said in a statement. “That was the key to keeping the Yankees off balance today.”
The Sox took a 1-0 lead on Yasmani Grandal’s RBI single in the fourth.
And Cueto continued “negotiating”, as Pollock said. He struck out five and walked two in the 95-pitch outing.
“It’s been amazing for us,” Pollock said. “He works fast and has all kinds of pitches to throw them off balance. Shimmy shake (delivery). It’s amazing to play behind him. It’s great to have him there for the first game of a doubleheader because of the tone he just set for us.”
Cueto has thrown 12 shutout innings, the third-longest streak for a Sox starter at the start of his tenure with the team since 1974, according to STATS. Ken Brett pitched 17 shutout innings in 1976 and Jack McDowell pitched 13 innings in 1987.
Cueto allowed two hits and struck out seven in six shutout innings against the Royals.
“He’s an artist,” La Russa said. “It’s fun to watch him throw a game. And that’s what he’s been, an outstanding starting pitcher, because he gives you a different look four times in one game.”
Cueto came out after allowing two singles to start the seventh. Joe Kelly struck out Marwin Gonzalez, intercepted Hicks at second and struck out Jose Treviño to keep a one-run lead.
“Kelly was just perfect,” La Russa said.
The Yankees got the run in the eighth, but Pollock had the big hit in the ninth to give the Red Sox what La Russa called a “hard-earned” victory.
The Sox went two for two on Sunday with more star pitching and clutch hitting.
“It just shows that we have that in us,” Vaughn said, “and we have to move on and keep building on that.”