Dylan Cease, White Sox getting postseason experience earlier this time

Another stirring White Sox victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night brought plenty of good news, but Dylan Cease’s start wasn’t one of them. His streak of 14 consecutive starts with fewer than two earned runs came crashing to a halt, and even if Andrew Vaughn flagged down Alex Bregman’s drive on the warning track to allow Cease to escape the third unscathed, Houston might’ve been able to wound him elsewhere.

Cease generated only 14 whiffs over 93 pitches, which isn’t bad for most pitchers, but decidedly down for him. He threw some great sliders, but he also threw his share of spinners and bouncers. He had a hard time finding the right elevation on his elevated fastball. The Astros showed why they have one of the league’s lowest strikeout rates, and with Justin Verlander sharing the mound, some of the missed locations might’ve been a reflection of Cease sensing a smaller margin for error.

Yet if you compare it to the last time he faced the Astros at Guaranteed Rate Field — Game 3 of last year’s ALDS — I’d argue that while his mediocre five innings on Tuesday was a small step back for his season, it might be a larger step forward in terms of big-game experience.

Leury García’s game-changing homer helps erase the fact that Cease got knocked out in the second inning after allowing three runs over 1⅔ innings last October. He fell apart after a 1-2-3 first, walking three batters in the second and throwing just 20 of 44 pitches for strikes, which was Reason 1B why Tony La Russa had such a short hook (the 0-2 hole in the series was 1A).

So much else happened during that game that Cease wasn’t asked about his five outs. Instead, the only question he handled was about the bullpen’s strong final five innings.

One of the weird things about last season is the White Sox spent the entire second half coasting. The big divisional lead provided ample opportunities to rest players who weren’t 100 percent, but it also provided a whole bunch of excuses as to why one performance, one game or one series didn’t go like it should.

The White Sox tried to prepare themselves for the sudden surge in gravity as October approached, but the Astros still plastered them against the wall with 37 runs over four games.

For better or for worse, the White Sox are getting exposed to postseason intensity well in advance this time around. The first two games of this series only drew about 41,000 fans combined, but the lack of capacity crowds haven’t diminished the urgency sensed by the reporters on hand …

… the fans …

… or the players in the dugout:

And the White Sox have looked a lot more engaged, with even Yoán Moncada expanding his expressions beyond “placid” and “pleased.”

They still make mistakes due to their limitations, but they’ve minimized the ramifications of them, and they’ve prevented deficits from expanding in order to give the offense ample opportunity to cobble together a crooked number.

Ideally, it would come so much easier, whether because they put the ball over the fence with regularity or because they have enough outfielders to fill an outfield, rather than first first basemen whose defensive metrics might as well say “bless their hearts.” I still don’t care to see Yasmani Grandal DHing until he starts pulling the ball in the air, because the ball hasn’t rewarded the Sox for their opposite-field contact all season, and as we saw in the second inning, the impact of Grandal’s singles are limited when he can’t score from second on one.

But if there’s a benefit to the Sox’s flaws being so pronounced this time around, it’s that it seems like they’ve given up on cruise control. Sure, there will be off games and blowouts where the scoreboard tells the Sox to try again tomorrow, but the standings — and maybe Johnny Cueto — are telling them to assume nothing about the next day until it becomes abundantly apparently, and they’re accepting the advice.

The 2022 White Sox have picked a hard way to make a living, but they’re alive nevertheless. If they grunt their way into the postseason, they’ll show up this time with their mettle thoroughly tested, for whatever that’s worth. Identifying which dings, dents and holes are the results of friendly fire can be left to forensics.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Elena

Elvis Andrus has been released by the A’s. He’d be a great stopgap until Timmy returns.

As Cirensica

This should be a no-brainer. Replace Sosa with Elvis. Sosa might need more seasoning or not be exposed to Major League pitching when winning games is a must.

a-t

I agree. Sosa’s got to learn how to deal with pitches that are borderline strikes but not good to hit, as well as developing an approach to get what he wants to hit, which is generally what a hitter learns in AAA. The bat-to-ball has always been there, and it seems that he’s developed respect pop this year. I think he can be a respectable major leaguer but he’s not ready yet. No shame in that, he’s still pretty young at 22.

Last edited 3 months ago by a-t
upnorthsox

Needs to learn to not swing at fastballs above his shoulders. That’s a start, then on to the slider away….

metasox

Can probably chalk some of it up to overanxious rookie. But this is no time for learning on the job

fustercluck

same goes for Vaughn

calcetinesblancos

The experience will help him immensely moving forward, and I enjoy it when they give these young guys a shot. But yeah, I think we’ve seen enough of him for now if an obviously better player is available.

upnorthsox

He should already be signed and on his way to town.

calcetinesblancos

Wake me when Elvis is in the building.

bullrun1861

Didi Gregorius was out there almost 2-weeks ago, and the Sox didn’t move on him. However, Andrus seems a better option.

  • Gregorius, age-32: .210/.263/.304/.567/1HR/19RBI/-0.6WAR
  • Andrus, age-33: .237/.301/.373/.673/8HR/30RBI/1.3WAR

SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

upnorthsox

The need for the Sox though has only really been out there since Sunday. I can understand not going after Didi if you knew Elvis was becoming available, which I’m sure they did, but if they don’t move now then it is basically saying that you don’t believe in the team at all. That said, I’m sure Elvis thinks he can extract something extra out of them which he probably can. Just get it done soon.

a-t

FG playoff odds has the Sox as very slight favorites in a 3-team race for the division now. Don’t stop now, boys!

lifelongjd

Great insight, Jim. If I had my choice, I’d pick this season’s path to the postseason over last. The issue with this is they have to actually make it. If they play the remaining 40 or so games with the same intensity, it shouldn’t be an issue.

roke1960

That is a fantastic analysis, Jim! They certainly won’t be coasting into the postseason this year. Cease had rather mediocre stuff and lousy command of his pitches, yet still only gave up 3 runs to the Astros- one if the Sox actually played a right fielder in right field. The impact Johnny Cueto had on the rotation has been great, but I’ll bet his impact in the clubhouse has been greater. This is going to be a very interesting last 7 weeks!

a-t

Johnny has been worth his weight in gold in so many ways this year.

metasox

There is a reason Giants fans (which I am part time) gave him such an ovation when he visited with the Sox this seaon even though he had missed so much time with injury. Everyone can see his hard work and positive effect

Qubort

I love Grandal and really hopes he finds something left in the tank at some point, but right now he should be only playing to give Seby a day off.

a-t

Gotta disagree, he has looked better in the past couple weeks than he has all season. Since 8/2 in 46 PA: 216/.370/.356, 15.6% BB, 13% K, 119 wRC+ despite .233 BABIP. Weird shape as usual but that’s about his career wRC+. Most of that has come even more recently— 152 wRC+ since 8/7. He’s not yet lifting the ball as frequently as he did when he went nuts last August/Sept, but he’s hitting the ball a lot harder.

soxygen

I don’t think Grandal should be DHing right now without another catcher on the 40-man. For that reason I thought Sheets would have been the better DH yesterday, but hey it all worked out.

As between the two catchers, though, I agree that Grandal is trending up (and Seby the other direction) but small sample sizes and all that.

Phil

Not to be negative, but I don’t think the Astros are playing with playoff intensity, with the big lead they have. They play in Atlanta next.

Great games for Moncada and our Sox, however. Keep on keepin’ on!

Root Cause

Not certain but think it was Greg Maddox that described how a pitcher needed those 5-8 innings of struggles to get to the next level. Batters adjust to you and then you adjust in later innings I like seeing a pitcher when he can gut out a W on sub-optimum day. His confidence is building just when we need it most.

a-t

A move hasn’t been announced, but the starting SS today is Romy Gonzalez per MLB’s lineup. Presumably Lenyn’s been sent down.

Last edited 3 months ago by a-t
metasox

Looks like Leury on IL

https://www.mlb.com/whitesox/roster/40-man

More reason to get Andrus

Last edited 3 months ago by metasox
a-t

Or probably Luis put on the IL, actually

soxfan

Garcia to the IL.

a-t

it seems I’ve been scooperized. Andrus is now highly important!

soxygen

In other AL Central injury news, Tyler Mahle left his start today after 2.1 innings with shoulder soreness – he was on the IL with a shoulder problem earlier this year with the Reds.

He had been pitching well for the Twins – 4 ER in 14.1 IP, so that’s a big blow to them.

abehickock

I really wouldn’t mind seeing Billy Hamilton brought back. They could use him as a defensive replacement and pinch runner late in games. He also brings plenty of energy and was well liked by his teammates.

a-t

That’s basically what Engel does, though? There’s not really a roster spot I’d prefer Hamilton in over the incumbent. Sheets’ lefty stick as a platoon/pinch-hitter seems clearly more important to the current roster.

Last edited 3 months ago by a-t
abehickock

When the rosters expand in September.

a-t

Ah, right, forgot about that. There’s a few different candidates for those two spots tho. Foster has struggled recently but we’ve seen high-leverage potential from him before, last we heard Bummer is slated for an early Sept return, Davis Martin might be called up to help conserve the rotation’s stamina… or Burger/Haseley/Perez on the position player side, maybe Colas if they’re really feeling ballsy.

abehickock

I’m just worried that their bad outfield defense will cost them a game or two down the stretch. It also adds to their pitchers pitch counts.

a-t

Yeah, I’m not a fan of it either, but since they expect Luis to be back soon given no IL move, by Sept they’ll have a defensive OF of Pollock-Robert-Engel available, which isn’t too shabby. Even Eloy-Robert-Pollock is perfectly acceptable.

phillyd

Nevermind. I did not read well.

Last edited 3 months ago by phillyd
HallofFrank

For goodness sake, Hahn, after this winter and the trade deadline, can you at least sign Elvis Andrus? You owe us. I’m going to be thoroughly annoyed if Andrus isn’t on the White Sox for the Cleveland series.