Reynaldo López enjoys his return to Chicago with encouraging Braves debut

Atlanta's fifth starter looked very impressive on Tuesday evening.

Atlanta Braves v Chicago White Sox
Atlanta Braves v Chicago White Sox / Nuccio DiNuzzo/GettyImages

This offseason, the Atlanta Braves surprised fans when they announced that Reynaldo López had been signed to a 3-year, $30 contract. At first glance, many thought he would be used in the Braves bullpen. However, we quickly learned he would be stretched out and given the opportunity to start in 2024.

Atlanta stuck to their word and Lopez pitched well through Spring Training, earning his spot at the back of the starting rotation. His first opportunity to show fans what he can do as a starting pitcher was on a chilly night in Chicago against the White Sox, hoping to follow a great debut from Charlie Morton.

López was previously a member of the White Sox so making his Braves debut in a familiar environment was probably very helpful. He was unhittable through the first 3.1 innings but allowed a single to Yoan Moncada with one out in the fourth. Moancada advanced to second after López had a bit of a mental error by throwing over to first base three times.

Luckily, the White Sox didn't do any damage that inning as he struck out Luis Robert Jr. and induced a forceout from Chicago first baseman Andrew Vaughn.

The sixth inning saw López experience a bit of bad luck as Chicago scored their first run of the game. Outfielder Andrew Benintendi hasn't been experiencing the best start to his 2024 campaign but he laid down a bunt single to reach base to lead off the inning.

Benintendi reached second after a walk to Yoan Moancada and then advanced to third on a sacrifice fly from Luis Robert. The White Sox outfielder scored on a bloop single by Gavin Sheets on an 0-2 count. López escaped the inning with a double play, ending his debut on a sour note. However, it was still a very encouraging start for the Atlanta right-hander.

The Braves offense, which laid dormant for most of the night, saw a bit of life late in the game. Marcell Ozuna hit a home run in the seventh inning which got López off the hook for a loss.

A.J. Minter replaced him in the bottom of the seventh and he struggled to throw quality pitches. Chicago took the lead during the first at-bat as former Cardinal Paul DeJong hit a go-ahead home run to left field.

Minter was able to complete his outing with no further damage. He struck out former Brave Kevin Pillar, got Nicky Lopez to fly out, and ended with a ground out from Martin Maldanado. Minter's command has been a little concerning since Spring but hopefully, that corrects itself as the season progresses.

Atlanta squandered an opportunity to take the lead in the top of the eighth as they earned three consecutive walks to load the bases with one out. Unfortunately, Austin Riley grounded out to third base and Chicago executed a double play to end the threat.

Pierce Johnson checked in for the bottom half of the inning and quickly got the first two outs. Unfortunately, Atlanta's opponent was able to score again on another bloop hit. This gave the White Sox an important insurance run as Marcell Ozuna launched another missile through the chilly Chicago night in the top of the ninth.

The Braves had another chance to tie things up or take the lead as Michael Harris II walked and Arcia lined a single to left field. Travis d'Arnaud popped up a 99 mph fastball for the third out as Atlanta suffered their second loss of the 2024 campaign.

Despite the loss, the highlight of Tuesday's game was Reynaldo López pitching well for the Braves. He maintained his fastball velocity in the 95-96 mph range throughout his start and did a great job keeping batters off balance. Braves manager Brian Snitker was impressed with what he saw from his starter.

López allowed just one run on four hits with two walks and five strikeouts, retiring the first 10 batters he faced. He looked extremely comfortable on the mound and if that's the kind of production Atlanta can get out of the fifth spot of the rotation, it will be a great year for the Braves rotation if they can stay healthy.

He will get the chance to start in his new home next week as the Braves begin a seven game homestand at Truist Park this Friday. He will face the New York Mets when they come to town for the first time in 2024.

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