CHICAGO – Late in the game, the Braves threatened – multiple times. We are accustomed to seeing them steal games with late rallies. Their lineup has left many opponents speechless.

They did not leave the opponent speechless this time, but they did come out with one victory: Reynaldo López, their offseason signing, looked terrific in his first start, which should not be downplayed.

The Braves on Tuesday lost to the White Sox, 3-2, at Guaranteed Rate Field. The teams will play the rubber match on Wednesday afternoon – if the weather permits.

Five observations on Tuesday’s loss:

1. For López, this moment – his latest start in the major leagues – was almost three years in the making.

“This start meant a lot to me, going three years without a start in the big leagues,” he said through interpreter Franco García after the game. “This start meant a lot to me. As far as the confidence, it definitely felt like it helped and my confidence increased after this one.”

López held the White Sox, his former team, to a run over six innings. He struck out five, walked two and allowed four hits. He didn’t give up a hit until the fourth inning and didn’t surrender the run until the sixth.

“I felt real good about what I saw right there,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

Lopez threw 82 pitches, and 52 were strikes. The White Sox don’t appear to be contenders, but there’s some talent in their lineup.

Another impressive part of this: López had the longest start of any Braves starter in the first turn through the rotation. Not bad for someone who hadn’t started a game (not including being an opener) since 2021.

When the Braves expressed interest in López, the conversation centered around his opportunity to be a starter. This was only one outing, but he proved he can do it.

“Especially in these conditions, I think that was phenomenal,” catcher Chadwick Tromp said. “That was amazing what he did out there today.”

2. When López arrived back in the dugout after giving up a run in the sixth inning, he felt a tap on his shoulder. It was Marcell Ozuna.

“I’m gonna get this one,” Ozuna told López.

Sure enough, with one out in the top of the seventh, Ozuna blasted his first of two solo homers.

“He called his own shot,” López said. “He’s one of those types of hitters that he’s gonna say that he’s gonna do something and then do it. It just speaks to the caliber of hitter that he is.”

Ozuna, who blasted 40 homers last season, has five hits in this young season – and three are homers. Oh, and he’s the No. 5 hitter in the order, which further encapsulates Atlanta’s long lineup.

At 33, Ozuna is experienced. His manager believes he’s in the prime of his career. It might be true, but this is for certain: He’s a veteran hitter who’s taken hitting lessons from all the years in the majors.

“You’re getting experience every single year or every single day that you’re going out there and you’re working for something,” Ozuna said. “You’re not working (for) quantity, you’re working (for) quality. So that’s what I learned and that’s what I put into the game to be successful.”

At first pitch, the temperature was 44 degrees. It surely felt colder because of the wind. Still, Ozuna powered out two blasts – the second of which made it a one-run game in the ninth.

3. In the eighth inning, Austin Riley stepped to the plate with one out and the bases loaded. He swung at the second pitch – a 98 mph fastball up and in – and grounded it to the third baseman, who stepped on third and fired to first for the inning-ending double play.

A crushing missed opportunity.

“We had a couple opportunities,” Snitker said. “You’re just kind of a hit away in a game like that. We couldn’t get it.”

Riley shouldn’t shoulder blame. The Braves only had three at-bats with runners in scoring position. They went hitless in those.

They showed fight, though. With two outs in the ninth inning, Michael Harris II and Orlando Arcia both were down to their final strike before reaching base.

“Over the years, I’ve seen these guys come back too many times,” Snitker said. “And we had the deck stacked in our favor there and just couldn’t get a big hit. I feel really good in those kinds of games that our guys are gonna make something happen.”

4. Chicago’s Garrett Crochet hurled seven innings. He allowed a run on three hits. He struck out eight and walked one.

“That starter was really good,” Snitker said. “You’re not gonna see much better than that over the course of the summer.”

Crochet is only 24 years old. Tuesday was his second career start.

Eventually, Chicago asked for five outs from Michael Kopech, who got the game’s final out with two Braves on base.

5. As a starter, López is focusing on throwing a third pitch again. On Tuesday, he mixed in his curveball. And as always, he regularly hurled his slider.

“It’s a pitch that he can control,” Tromp said of the curveball. “It’s gonna help his other pitches because we have multiple ways to use it throughout a game. I think he’s gonna keep working on it, and every single other pitch. He has a pretty fun repertoire right now that we’re gonna get to work with the whole season.”

Added Snitker: “I think there’s some breaking balls that he threw in counts that made his fastball play up even a little more. … Actually, I thought his fastball played a little better than I was reading on the gun, to tell you the truth.”

López averaged 94.9 mph with his four-seam fastball.

Stat to know

916 - There were 916 days between Sept. 28, 2021 – when López made his last MLB start, not including being an opener – and Tuesday.


“We knew what we had in camp coming into the season, and I just think today proves how valuable he’s gonna be for us the whole year.” - Tromp on López

Up next

If the weather holds up, the Braves and White Sox will play the series finale at 2:10 p.m. Wednesday. Spencer Strider is scheduled to start for Atlanta.