Through 17 games, it’s safe to say that Dylan Cease is the team’s best pitcher, and Andrew Vaughn is the club’s best hitter.
Everything around them is still a little bit of a mess, but the strength of Cease’s start and Vaughn’s closing was enough to snap the eight-game losing streak this afternoon.
Cease opened the game by retiring the first 13 batters, then escaped a shaky sixth for the team’s first quality start. When the front end of the White Sox’s bullpen lost the remaining third of their original three-run lead, Vaughn capped off a new one with a resounding seventh-inning homer that held up.
Based on the way the White Sox’s original lead eroded, this one had the markings of a ninth straight loss, albeit in a new and exciting way. The White Sox scored in three consecutive innings against Zack Greinke, but twice failed to drive in an additional runner from third with one out. Shortly afterward, Cease’s no-hit and shutout bid were foiled by dinks and doinks, and had Hunter Dozier laid off a 3-2 slider out of the zone with the bases loaded, Cease would’ve exited after 5⅔ innings with the game tied.
Instead, the Royals had to wait an inning to manufacture a run off José Ruiz. Bobby Witt Jr. singled, stole second and took third on a balk with one out. Ruiz then walked Michael A. Taylor, after which Bennett Sousa joined the fray to face lefty Nicky Lopez. Lopez foiled that move by dipping his elbow into an inside slider to load the bases, and Whit Merrifield finally cashed in Witt with a sac fly to center.
But that brought another lefty to the plate in Andrew Benintendi, and he flied out to fellow Andrew Vaughn to limit the damage.
When Vaughn came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh thanks to inning-extending singles by Danny Mendick and Tim Anderson, he returned the favor to his counterpart, but cleared him by plenty. Scott Barlow relieved Collin Snider, probably with the idea of getting Vaughn out on breaking balls, but when he started Vaughn with a first-pitch fastball, he didn’t get to a second pitch. Vaughn unloaded and hit what constitutes a no-doubter these days, in that the ball landed in the White Sox bullpen without Benintendi scaling the wall.
Kendall Graveman then handled the eighth and ninth in Liam Hendriks’ absence and recorded the save, as Reese McGuire’s run-scoring double play made it a four-run game between Graveman’s innings.
If the White Sox had their druthers, they would’ve preferred Cease to get the win. He had all his pitches working, recording a hefty 21 swinging strikes on his 99 pitches, including 13 with the fastball. He retired the first 13 batters he faced before Carlos Santana drew a walk with one out in the fifth, and Cease worked around it without incident.
When Edward Olivares opened up the sixth with a slow roller to third, Cease’s work begun. It’s unclear if a perfect effort by Jake Burger would have gotten the out, but he couldn’t find the handle on it and Olivares reached without a throw.
Cease came back to get a strikeout, but the sharpness on his breaking balls started dulling. A wild pitch moved Olivares to second, a walk to Nicky Lopez backfilled first base, and both ended up scoring. Whit Merrifield dumped a single to right on a quality slider to score one, followed by Benintendi dropping a single in front of a slow-breaking Vaughn for the second run, making it a 3-2 game with still just one out.
Cease then went to three-ball counts on each of the last three hitters, but alternating wins and losses was good enough. He struck out Salvador Perez on a foul tip, settled for intentionally walking Santana, then fanned Dozier with a slider off the plate, but one that was closer than his earlier misses and proved relatively too enticing to resist.
The White Sox built a lead against Greinke with a yeoman effort. In the second, Yasmani Grandal led off with an infield single that made a shifted Merrifield run too far, followed by a Burger double off Witt at third and a McGuire sac fly. Alas, Adam Engel lined out to a drawn-in shortstop and Mendick was rung up on a pitch well off the plate to stall one rally.
The third inning followed a similar plot, with Anderson singling to start and scoring on Vaughn’s double. Vaughn took third when Gavin Sheets popped out to shallow left field, but Witt spiked a half-throw to nobody to give Vauhgn time to tag. But then José Abreu grounded to a drawn-in shortstop before Grandal bounced out to first.
The third run off Greinke required less effort, as Burger conquered the elements with a solo shot just right of center. Had Vaughn not stolen the show, Burger would’ve been the first star on offense. He went 3-for-4 and made homer-worthy contact for a second straight game.
*Greinke doubled his season strikeout total with four over six innings, but the White Sox got back to better swings with just seven K’s over eight innings. Cease and Graveman combined for all 13 of the White Sox’s strikeouts on the pitching side.
*Cease’s three singles allowed came on hits with exit velocities of 64.7, 73.9 and 88.4 mph. The last of those had an expected batting average of .010, but Vaughn redeemed himself.
*Vaughn has four homers and 12 RBIs. Nobody else in the Sox lineup has more than half of each (Eloy Jiménez drove in seven before his injury).
Record: 7-10 | Box score | Statcast
Where is the paper bag guy today, did something change?
Paper bag guy didn’t hear about the change of game time so he showed up too late to thwart the Sox today.
Is this what happens when your team scores runs and none of your players’ bodies fall apart during the game?
Runs? What are those? I thought this was a White Sox blog.
the good news is that the offense has been horribly unlucky, not outright bad, even accounting for the deadened ball. They’re atop the Statcast leaderboards by xBA – BA (.262, .213, 0.049) by a small amount, but are far clear of second place in xSLG – SLG (.501, .346, 0.155) and xwOBA – wOBA (.343, 0.275, 0.068).
they actually lead baseball in barrels per PA. I also think that MLB is gonna fiddle with the ball again or possibly the humidor settings to increase offense, I don’t think they actually want to go back to deadball era levels of offense. The Sox might be better positioned than anyone else to explode if/when that happens.
The flip side is the pitching. But the pitching staff has *not* seen a big shift in xwOBA – wOBA nearly as much as the offense, just 0.015. So: they’ll be fine. They’re snakebit in several ways right now, between injuries, errors from usually solid fielders, and just poor batted ball luck. It’s been a brutal past week till now but I don’t think there’s anything to suggest they aren’t still clearly the best team in the division, especially if Cease and Kopech keep pitching like this.
This is what could happen when you actually give your best hitters the most at bats.
Seriously, not on the bench, and hitting 2nd what a miracle. Stone mentioned he may have found a home in the 2 hole multiple times during the broadcast and Frank mentioned it in the postgame as well.
Win a game and score seven runs? Are they allowed to do that?
Thinking about this team healthy with Vaughn, Cease, and Kopech all being very good makes me very happy.
If Manfred ball continues, next road trip the Sox should bring the fences in 15’
Its very early for this kind of talk, but something to keep an eye on, currently vaughn and burger are doing a lot of good things at the mlb level…. at the single A level Ramos and Colas are tearing the cover off the ball.
How likely is it that both or at least one of Eloy or Moncada depart by 2024… a year they are scheduled to make about 40 mil combined….
Thats not a knock on either of these guys and especially not on Moncada who has done a ton more then Eloy but the finances are gonna get tricky sooner then later and good teams that contend for a long time make moves with an eye on restocking the farm and controlling costs.
Yes, I’m not sure how they’ll handle this if it arises (one of those “good problems”). But I’ve long been in the camp of trying to build a sustainable winner rather than maximize a 3-year window. I hope they hold onto their top prospects, unless the perfect deal comes along.
It’s really hard to imagine Burger making it on the Sox through 2023… unless Moncada is just riddled with injuries OR they move Burger to 2B. But no way can they just stash Burger in AAA through ’23.
The only way I can see it working is letting Jose depart (which sounds like is a real possibility according to his comments in ST). Allowing Vaughn, Eloy and Burger rotate between LF, 1B and DH (Burger’s restricted to DH and 1B).
I get wanting to trade Eloy, but who knows what his value even ends up being.
That’s fair. Although it’s so hard to see the Sox letting Jose walk, unless he just has a bad year and looks finished.
Jose (probably) can’t play forever and as much as I’d like him around, I’d hope we’ve taken notes from Paulie’s last ride and the past few years of Miggy/Pujols. If we think he can still put up 30/100 then see what we can work out but don’t keep him just for sentimentality.
They can keep him for sentimentality as a coach. In fact, it might be a great idea with all the Cubans on the team and in the minors. He also has bonded with Jimenez.
If Burger is good for the next month, he could well be part of a deal for a starter. Considering 2023 and later moves needs to consider Cespedes and Colas also. They are actually outfielders as opposed to the first basemen we are currently playing in left and right field often.
I like Jake Burger as a player but it is rough watching him play defense at third. Everything just looks max effort with no margin for error.
I don’t share the Moncada love that most people have here. Hurt much too often, underproducing offensively, and how many times do I have to hear how great he is on the move, but not so much on an easy pick and catch?