After spending most of the second half trying to squeak by with contributions from the bottom half of the order, the top half of the White Sox lineup wasted no time putting its stamp on the game.
Tim Anderson homered on the first pitch of the game, the first of three blasts off Kyle Davies that gave Dylan Cease a 5-0 lead before he took the mound. Eloy Jiménez hit the second to open a two-homer night against the team that signed him and traded him away, and Andrew Vaughn’s laser to left set the tone for a well-rounded night on a national stage.
Cease wasn’t his sharpest, but he finished five without overtaxing himself. The bullpen finished innings according to plan, and the Sox swept a series that got easier with each passing day.
Anderson, who argued his way into the lineup after the original lineup had a scheduled day off, showed why he wanted to be on primetime. He poked Kyle Davis’ first-pitch fastball into the right-center bleachers, and Sox spent most of the evening treating Davies that rudely. Adam Engel followed with a single, and two batters later, Jiménez lofted a high sinker out to center for a 3-0 lead. Yoán Moncada then drew the first of his three walks on the night, after which Vaughn smoked a missile out to left.
If this were hockey, they’d each register as the three stars of the game.
Anderson: Came a triple short of the cycle during a 3-for-5 night and scored two runs.
Jiménez: Added an RBI double into the left-field corner and an opposite-field homer to finish 3-for-4 with five RBIs.
Vaughn: Went 2-for-3 with a walk, and the other hit was a two-out RBI single for the game’s final run. He also made a copule of nice catches in right — one a leaping catch on the warning track, and a running grab toward the right field corner that Ian Happ dropped on Saturday.
Cease did the job, too, although he worked a little harder than he had to. He struck out 10 over five innings, but he also had to work around five hits and three walks, along with two wild pitches. His fastball was lively and set up counts well, but he had a hard time throwing competitive pitches with two strikes, bouncing a lot of sliders and curves.
The good news is that he figured out his release point over the last two innings. He retired the last seven he faced, and struck out the side in the fifth.
Given that the Sox had an 8-3 lead, there was no point in pushing him further. Credit Reynaldo López for throwing two drama-free innings to get the game into the eighth. Using him for multiple innings to ease a starter’s load is a great way to make him useful.
*The bottom three spots went 0-for-12 with five strikeouts, including César Hernández’s first ineffective night of the year.
*The White Sox now only have to win one of three games at Guaranteed Rate Field to secure the season’s biggest prize: the Crosstown Cup.