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In the end, it really didn’t matter whether Dylan Cease started against Colorado or Cleveland, because the White Sox couldn’t score against Kyle Freeland.
Cease labored from the first inning onward over the course of a mediocre five, while a White Sox offense that actually outhit the Rockies couldn’t deliver one when it counted, going 0-for-11 in scoring position.
The loss, paired with a 5-3 Cleveland win over the Angels, turns Thursday’s make-up game into a true must-win. Not every game will bear that label, but the next Sox loss to the Guardians counts as double because it’ll secure the tie-breaker in favor of Cleveland. They currently trail by four, and a loss tomorrow would effectively mean they’re six back.
The White Sox had baserunners in each of the first five innings, and six of the first seven. Some of those threats died before they really lived (double plays in the first two innings), and others featured more suffering.
The Sox offense peaked in the fourth. One inning after Romy González led off with a double and advanced no further, the Sox opened with an Eloy Jiménez wall-ball single and an Andrew Vaughn walk. AJ Pollock, who had a miserable game, struck out, and a still-shaky Luis Robert flied out to center field.
Seby Zavala came to the plate and did his best to reverse course, but his bid for a homer inside the left-field foul pole died in Yonathan Daza’s glove against the wall. The Sox were a couple feet from leading, but a half-inning later, the Rockies converted on their leadoff double to extend the lead to 3-0, and the game state was never really in doubt.
Cease dropped to 14-7 while his ERA rose to 2.16, and his slider didn’t possess its usual soul-shattering force. He hung one to Alan Trejo in the second inning, and Trejo came through with an RBI double to the left-center gap for the first Rockies run. When Ryan McMahon scalded a 2-1 slider into a lineout thanks to Andrew Vaughn’s diving catch, Cease was inspired to try the knuckle curve instead to Daza, but Daza knocked it through the left side to score Trejo.
The White Sox bullpen pitched four scoreless innings for a second consecutive day, with four different relievers — Jake Diekman, Joe Kelly, José Ruiz and Vince Velasquez — achieving the same feat, but these zeroes served less of a purpose.
*Pollock went 0-for-4 with a double play, two strikeouts and four stranded. He also committed a throwing error when his attempt to gun down McMahon at the plate in the fifth took a high weird hop that neither cutoff man Yoán Moncada nor Zavala could corral. It didn’t end up mattering.
*Elvis Andrus committed his first error with the Sox, an inexplicable high throw on what should’ve been the third out of the sixth inning, but Diekman pitched around it. Andrus was 2-for-4 with a stolen base otherwise.
*Robert managed to poke a single to right, but his swings still lack conviction.
*Jiménez’s hamstring cost him a double on his wall ball in the fourth, and an infield single in the sixth.
*Nate Tomlinson’s plate looked wider for the Rockies, but Statcast says it was more balanced than the White Sox dugout believed. We’ll have a better idea when his Ump Scorecard comes out.