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Whenever the White Sox are involved in a pitching matchup that garners national attention, I always think back to June 15, 2012, when Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw both failed to throw quality starts, and a battle of the bullpen settled the game in favor of the Dodgers, 7-6.
(Alex Rios and Adam Dunn both homered off Kershaw. Rios also homered off Ronald Belisario, who still managed to pick up the win.)
That’s a little unfair, because sometimes there are matchups like the one between Sale and Mark Buehrle in 2015, when both threw complete games in a 4-2 White Sox winner that lasted just one hour and 54 minutes. My tendency to brace for the less impressive outcome is less reflective of a pessimistic mindset, and more because the design of baseball isn’t conducive to stars delivering on demand.
Tonight will test that concept, because Dylan Cease and Justin Verlander come into this one with stretches that are just about impossible to top.
Verlander, since the White Sox improbably beat him up on June 18, is 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA over his last eight starts, with just 45 baserunners allowed over 53⅔ innings.
Cease has been even better for even longer. He hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in 14 consecutive starts, and even if you set aside the first four starts of that stretch where he allowed a combined total of 10 unearned runs, that still leaves 10 starts, over which he’s 7-2 with a 0.89 ERA over 60⅔ innings, with more than twice as many strikeouts (77) as hits allowed (34).
Verlander and Cease come into this game 1-2 in AL ERA, and they’re likely 1-2 in Cy Young voting if the season ended today. Over the course of 162 games, some nights need to be played up as larger than others, and this one certainly fits the bill.
Both got the title bout treatment by talking to the media on Monday, and both talked about the race within the race:
As much as the players are focused on the game, the award isn’t something they’re shying away from either.
“I try not to fixate on it,” Cease said. “We have a lot of other things going on but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t on my mind.” […]
Verlander was asked about Cease competing for the Cy Young award after not being chosen for the All-Star Game this year.
“Cy Young is much more important than All-Star, in the scheme of things,” Verlander said. “I know his stuff is tremendous. It seems like he’s put it all together this year.”
For reading on how each pitcher got here, Jay Jaffe detailed Verlander’s resurgence after Tommy John surgery at age 39 late last week, while Mike Petriello dissected the improvement of each of Cease’s four pitches, even if the slider is the one stealing the show.
Had the White Sox not rallied to beat the Astros, this note from Bob Nightengale’s column about the next potential managers to be dismissed after the Rangers fired Chris Woodward.
Tony La Russa, Chicago White Sox: The White Sox would never fire La Russa again, but they would move him to a special assistant’s role if they miss the postseason. They are the most underachieving team in baseball playing in the league’s softest division.
Jerry Reisndorf’s loyalty to La Russa basically risks turning the White Sox into a baseball hospice, and it’s still worth pointing out in case the Sox step on more rakes, but I just wanted to take some time off from complaining about it.
Whether it’s Frank Menechino or any of his charges, nobody on the White Sox is debating the importance of homers. Going forward, it seems like the White Sox need to prioritize their power from guys who pull the ball in the air, because it’s the middle of summer and opposite-field homers are still hard to come by.
Last Tuesday, Royals reliever Amir Garrett responded to a heckler behind the visitors’ dugout at Guaranteed Rate Field by throwing a drink at him. From the clip, I couldn’t tell any lines were crossed …
… but Garrett’s thorough apology and follow-up after the incident makes it seem like a more ordinary form of chirping.