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Dylan Cease was facing his most difficult challenge since joining the big leagues. The Houston Astros entered the day second in BB% paired with the lowest K% rate in baseball. With the fifth-lowest swing rate, the Astros hitters don’t often chase pitches out of the zone. When pitches are in the strike zone, no other team does a better job of making contact. Cease needed to get ahead of Astros hitters to prevent the big innings from happening.
On the very first pitch, George Springer greeted Cease with a solo home run. Jose Altuve also hit a solo home run, but the Astros had difficulty generating more damage against Cease until Welington Castillo forgot how to field his position.
After Springer’s home run, Michael Brantley hit a double following Altuve’s single to put Cease in a bind. Carlos Correa hit an infield fly for the first out, and then came an interesting decision by Rick Renteria with Yordan Alvarez at the plate. The powerful lefty bat in 46 games was posting 1.164 OPS with 17 home runs. Instead of allowing Alvarez to drive in runs, Renteria called for the intentional walk to load the bases for Yuli Gurriel. No slouch himself, Gurriel had 23 home runs with 128 OPS+, so it appeared Renteria was flirting with danger.
However, no team hits into more double plays per game than the Astros, and no team in baseball turns more double plays per game than the White Sox. Sure enough, the tandem worked as Gurriel grounded into the 5-4-3 double play ending the threat.
White Sox had an opportunity to tie the game in the second inning. Welington Castillo and Ryan Goins singled to set the stage for Matt Skole. With two outs, Skole singled to shallow right field, and Castillo decided to challenge Springer’s arm from right field. The All-Star threw a dart to Robinson Chirinos at home plate. After a hard collision with Castillo, Chirinos was able to hold on to the ball to end the inning.
Eventually, the Sox would find a way to generate more offense against Zack Greinke. In the fourth inning, Jose Abreu singled and would score all the way from first base on Eloy Jimenez’s double to left field.
José on his ?! pic.twitter.com/hqQsw1r4CV— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) August 13, 2019
Next inning, it was Abreu again generating more offense. Adam Engel was hit by a pitch and got himself to third base off Jon Jay and Tim Anderson’s groundouts. With two strikes, Greinke’s slider caught too much of the plate and Abreu lined it left field for an RBI double to tie the game, 2-2.
After allowing Altuve’s home run in the third inning, Cease retired 11 straight hitters into the sixth inning with two outs. Alvarez walked on five pitches and advanced to third base with Gurriel’s single to right field. On the first pitch against Aledmys Diaz, Castillo couldn’t catch Cease’s 97-mph fastball resulting in a passed ball. As the pitch hit the backstop, Alvarez made his dash to home plate. Castillo got the throw to Cease in time to apply the tag, but the call was safe.
Renteria challenged the ruling, and it appeared that Cease applied the tag on Alvarez’s lead foot sliding into home plate. It was hard to see where the glove was and where home plate began with the infield clay kicked up, but the replay office at MLB headquarters decided the call would stand and the Astros took a 3-2 lead.
It wouldn’t get better for Castillo behind the plate. After Cease walked Jake Marisnick, Renteria called for Kelvin Herrera in relief who did produce two quick outs. Then after intentionally walking Michael Brantley with Marisnick stealing second base, Herrera would also walk Correa to load the bases for Alvarez.
Another pitching change, this time to Jace Fry, and Castillo suffered another passed ball. On a high fastball, Castillo just simply missed the pitch as it deflected off umpire Todd Tichenor’s shoulder and allowed Marisnick to score. That run counted against Cease but it wasn’t earned, and his final line was 6 IP 5 H 4 R 2 ER 5 BB 2 K 2 HR on 98 pitches. Even though the walks were more you would like to see, Cease did produce 10 grounders, and the only two fly balls allowed left the yard.
Castillo’s woes behind home plate continued as he was charged with a third passed ball and a “Wild Pitch” that should have been ruled as another passed ball. Houston did tack on two more runs to make it 6-2, and that was enough as Greinke and the Astros bullpen shut down the White Sox offense retiring the last 13 hitters faced.