CHICAGO — Michael Kopech hit Mookie Betts with the first pitch he threw on Friday night. He then walked Andrew Benintendi on four pitches, none that were the same area code as the strike zone.
The hotshot Chicago White Sox rookie was on the verge of being embarrassed by the Red Sox. The game was flying by like a racecar.
“The nerves hit me a little more than I thought,” Kopech said.
Then Kopech whirled around and caught Betts trying to steal third base for the first out. J.D. Martinez flied out to right field, and Xander Bogaerts popped out to second to end the inning.
The base-running mistake allowed Kopech to regain his composure. The White Sox then scored three runs in the bottom of the inning and went on to a 6-1 victory.
Betts is one of the smartest base runners in the game. But getting caught stealing third for the first out of an inning with a hitter like Martinez at the plate was a terrible play.
Martinez has 114 RBIs. Where are you going?
“It was a bad decision. He knows it,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “We talked about it. It’s not that we don’t want to be aggressive, but you have to recognize the situation.”
The 22-year-old Kopech pitched three scoreless innings before a rain delay of two hours and nine minutes ended his start.
He did not get the decision but showed something against the Red Sox, the team that drafted him in 2014 before trading him to the White Sox as part of a package of prospects to land Chris Sale.
“For that to kind of go my way and for me to get back out there and compete the next couple innings, it means a lot for me and the team,” Kopech said.
With the Yankees beating the Tigers in New York, the Red Sox saw their lead in the American League East drop back down to 7½ games.
The Red Sox are 2-3 against the White Sox this season. The series has two games remaining with Eduardo Rodriguez coming off the disabled list to start on Saturday night.
Nathan Eovaldi (5-7) took the loss. Unlike Kopech, he let the first inning get away from him.
Eovaldi hit Yolmer Sanchez before Avisail Garcia lined an RBI double into the left-field corner. Former Red Sox prospect Yoan Moncada, also part of the Sale trade, then homered to left field.
Garcia hit an 0-and-2 curveball and Moncada a 1-2 fastball.
Eovaldi has become a problem for the Red Sox. The righthander has allowed 17 earned runs on an astonishing 38 hits over 19 innings in his last five starts. Opponents have hit .404 in those games.
“We need to make adjustments. We have to,” Cora said. “His stuff is too good for him to be hit like that with two strikes. … We know he can be good; his stuff is that good. We’ve got to fix it.”
Because he threw only 35 pitches, the Sox will bring Eovaldi back to face the Atlanta Braves on Monday.
With a month left in the season, Eovaldi has ample time to improve. But right now, he does not look like a pitcher who could be trusted in a postseason game in any role.
“I feel like I’ve been ahead in the counts. It’s 0-1, 1-2, and it’s situations they’ve been able to get a hit,” said Eovaldi, who was far more blithe about his struggles than Cora.
When the rain stopped, Drew Pomeranz worked four scoreless innings of relief to keep the Red Sox in the game. He allowed seven hits but also struck out six without a walk.
Then Tyler Thornburg took them out of the game in the seventh inning. He put two runners before Matt Davidson homered deep to left field.
Thornburg, who sports a 5.31 earned run average, also doesn’t look like much of a postseason option.
Friday also marked the deadline for teams to add any players who would be eligible for the postseason roster. The Red Sox made no moves.
Down 6-0, the Red Sox managed only to avoid the shutout when Benintendi homered in the eighth inning.
When Bogaerts struck out to end the inning, umpire Will Little ejected him.
A 3-0 pitch from Juan Minaya was clearly off the plate but called a strike. The frustration built from there when Bogaerts took two more called strikes.
Bogaerts, who said he had never been ejected at any level, flung his bat away after the last pitch and muttered a mild epithet.
“I think he had a long night also,” Bogaerts said of Little. “I did not deserve it, but he did it.”
Cora argued Bogaerts’ case but was not tossed. Rick Porcello was then ejected from the dugout after cursing out Little in the bottom of the inning.
“He deserved that one,” Cora said.
Dylan Covey went three innings for the win. Kopech and three relievers held the Red Sox to six hits. The White Sox have won six of eight and were 17-12 in August.
Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.