JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Trey Michalczewski lifted a second inning pitch over the wall in center field for a two-run home run and gave Michael Kopech all the support he needed in the 2-1 Barons' victory on Saturday evening.
"It was a changeup and he left it up," Michalczewski said of the home run. "I looked at the scouting report and it was his pitch to go to. With a runner on, I thought he'd try to get ahead with it by either making me chase or throwing a strike and luckily he left it up and it went out of the park."
On the other hand, Kopech began the game by retiring the first eight Jumbo Shrimp and was spotted with the two-run lead thanks to Michalczewski and then the right-hander did the rest.
Kopech allowed a lone fifth inning unearned run, on an RBI single by Braxton Lee , but held Jacksonville's bats at bay for the rest of his seven-inning outing.
Meanwhile, Trevor Richards did his job to keep the game close through his five innings, striking out seven Barons, which included the rare four strikeout inning during the fourth.
However, despite Richards' best efforts, Kopech retired the final seven he faced, including striking out the side in the seventh and punctuating his outing on a 97 mph fastball to strike out Taylor Ard to end the inning.
"The velocity is always going to be there for me," Kopech said. "It's not something I worry about, keeping it in the tank or fatiguing early, so I'm comfortable with my velocity throughout the game."
Kopech left the game after 93 pitches and 63 for strikes, going seven strong innings, while allowing four hits and one unearned run, while walking one and striking out 11. Over his last five outings, Kopech is 4-1, with a 0.79 ERA, combining for 34 innings pitched, while giving up 18 hits, five runs and three earned, while walking five and striking out 44.
"I think I'm more excited about only having five walks," Kopech added. "I think a lot of that is credit to (pitching coach) Jose Bautista and how we talked a lot about direction before I went to the Futures Game and ever since then it's clicked, keeping my direction to the plate and getting ahead in counts. Definitely credit to him and the work we put in between starts."
The Barons' bullpen was called upon for six outs and a combination of Colton Turner for one out and Jack Charleston for five obliged, with Charleston picking up his second save in a Barons' uniform.
"I love throwing in the pressure situations at the end of games," Charleston said. "It's a little different coming in with other guys' runners on and the pressure is there to help your teammates and that's the most stressful part. Sitting in the top of the ninth wasn't too bad and getting to go back out is the most settling part with no one on base and a fresh inning."
The Barons and Jumbo Shrimp will square off in game three tomorrow afternoon at 2:05 p.m. CT. Lefty Jordan Guerrero will be on the hill for the Barons, while fellow left-hander Dillon Peters will toe the rubber for Jumbo Shrimp. Curt Bloom will bring you all the action, starting with the Coca-Cola pregame show at 1:55 p.m. CT. The game can be heard on the iHeart Radio app and 105.5 WERC-FM.
For ticket information, game schedule, promotions calendar or for additional information about Regions Field, call (205) 988-3200, or visit www.barons.com, www.facebook.com/birminghambarons or on Twitter: @bhambarons.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.