After an up-and-down start to the season, the White Sox hoped Reynaldo Lopez would find his stride heading into the stretch.
It looks like he has.
The sixth-ranked Chicago prospect struck out a season-high 12 batters while allowing a run on two hits and two walks in Charlotte's 5-4 win over Gwinnett on Sunday.
Video: Charlotte's Lopez fans fifth in a row
"Every young guy that goes out to pitch has to find their own stride," Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty said. "There are frustrations that happen and things you have to work on, but right now, he's confident and it's showing because he's throwing the ball really well."
Lopez struck out top Atlanta prospect Ozzie Albies and seventh-ranked Ronald Acuna to begin a 1-2-3 first inning. After Rio Ruiz grounded out to second base to begin the second, the right-hander whiffed five Braves in a row.
Danny Santana's two-out single in the fourth ended Lopez's run of 11 straight outs to open the game, but the 23-year-old responded by sitting down seven in a row to get through six innings.
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"He was very good," McCatty said. "His changeup was good and he had a live fastball. When he got ahead, he used his change well. His offspeed got better as the game went along. I thought he pitched a real nice game. He's a young guy who's learning how to pitch and about what he does well. He didn't force things and did a very good job of controlling the game."
Lopez issued a walk to Acuna and struck out Santana to start the seventh. It looked like he might get out of the inning unscathed when Charlotte catcher Rob Brantly threw out Acuna trying to take second. But the 6-foot, 185-pound righty walked Ruiz, who advanced on Dustin Peterson's single. A wild pitch ended Lopez's chance at his first scoreless outing since posting five zeros against Durham on May 16.
Video: Charlotte's Lopez records 12th K
Lopez struck out Micah Johnson to end his outing, giving him his 10th quality start of the year and his fourth in a row.
"I never really felt he was in trouble at any point," McCatty added. "I could see he knew what he wanted to do and he was able to do it. I was real comfortable in the fact that he never really felt like he was in danger because he was confident in his pitches."
Lopez has struck out 101 batters in 100 innings for Charlotte this season. The native of the Dominican Republic has produced a 3.78 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP in 18 starts.
After giving up at least one homer in five starts in a row from June 6 to July 4, Lopez hasn't surrendered a long ball in his last two outings.
MLB.com's top overall prospect Yoan Moncada went 1-for-4 with an RBI single for the Knights.
After the Braves rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth against Bobby Parnell (3-2), Tyler Ladendorf hit a pinch-hit walk-off double against A.J. Minter (0-1) in the bottom of the frame.