White Sox 3, Royals 0: Cease and Kelly Win Battles, Sox Win War

Dylan Cease wasn’t at his sharpest in Game 1 of today’s doubleheader against the Royals, but it was still a somewhat revelatory performance for anyone who remembers watching him in 2019 and 2020. Over his first two seasons, Cease flashed promise but his starts were littered with command and control lapses, and the extra baserunners would often lead to full on self-immolation. But in Kansas City, Cease battled through 5 2/3 scoreless innings despite piling up 9 baserunners — five singles, two doubles and two walks. Cease leaned on his fastball and slider to get 19 whiffs on only 48 swings, and needed every one of his 9 strikeouts along the way.

Meanwhile, Joe Kelly tried his best to upstage Cease — first by walking the bases loaded, then by escaping unharmed. And Jose Abreu had his best day in weeks to push the White Sox over the top.

Cease set the tone for his day by working around a leadoff double from Whit Merrifield to open the game, and the Sox and Royals traded zeroes for the first four innings. Royals starter Jonathan Heasley doesn’t quite fit the “soft-tossing righty” profile since he touches 96 mph, but his pitch-to-contact style kept the Sox lineup off balance until his own struggles with the zone in the 5th.

Reese McGuire started the inning with a double (!) followed by a Josh Harrison walk. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch, and Heasley took advantage of the open base by hitting Tim Anderson on the shoulder. Considering Anderson’s personal history with the Royals, he was rather unhappy, but the Sox stuck to making Kansas City pay on the scoreboard. AJ Pollock fell behind Heasley 0-2, but fouled off 8 consecutive pitches and finally lined a shot to Andrew Benintendi in leftfield that was deep enough to score McGuire. Luis Robert’s groundout advanced both runners, setting up a classic Abreu 2-out ribbie situation. Abreu worked a full count, but seemed to miss his chance when he fouled off a 3-2 meatball slider. Heasley followed it up with another slider in the exact same spot and Josavior didn’t miss this one, lining a double to center and putting the Sox up 3-0.

That ended up being the only runs that the Sox needed, but Kelly made it interesting in the meantime. After Nicky Lopez doubled to open the 7th, Kelly walked Merrifield and Benintendi to load the bases with nobody out. A visit from Ethan Katz seemed to settle Kelly, who found the strike zone and came back to K Carlos Santana and Ryan O’Hearn before inducing a Hunter Dozier pop up to end the inning. No harm, no foul — but recalling his tenures with the Dodgers and Red Sox, this kind of thing may be an indelible part of the “Joe Kelly Experience.”

Fortunately, Jose Ruiz and Liam Hendriks had no such adventures during the 8th and 9th to close out a White Sox winner.

Notes

  • Tony La Russa made another somewhat odd pitching change, pulling Cease with two outs in the 6th. Cease had just struck out MJ Melendez and was at 94 pitches in Game 1 of a doubleheader. La Russa went to Bennett Sousa to face lefty 8th hitter Kyle Isbel, and Mike Matheny predictably responded by pinch-hitting Michael A. Taylor. Luckily, Sousa K’d Taylor to render the decision moot.
  • Gordon Beckham (subbing for Steve Stone) shared the somewhat disconcerting observation that up close, Kelly’s right (throwing) arm still looks much smaller than his left arm because of his offseason surgery. Seems… not great.
  • Abreu finished 2 for 3 with a walk. Perhaps the start of a rebound?
  • Davis Martin makes his major league debut starting Game 2 at 6:10 Chicago time.
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Greg Nix

Greg Nix writes stuff all over the internet, and sometimes even on TV. He loves the White Sox and the Phoenix Suns even though they bring him nothing but pain.

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a-t

The royals may be a cure for certain ills.

I wonder if the plan with the rotation is to stick VV in the bullpen as a long man?

GrinnellSteve

That’s my guess. Vinnie represents some much-needed starting depth (kind of), if they ever find themselves with 5 healthy starters ahead of him, they don’t want to jettison him.

soxfan

Notwithstanding 27th men for double headers, until we actually have six healthy starters we probably don’t need to hypothesize about bullpen assignments for those that are healthy.

Last edited 1 month ago by soxfan
a-t

Giolito going on the covid list probably only delayed the making of this decision about a week or so, no?

Right Size Wrong Shape

“Hey Joe, before we give you this $17 million, could you just hold out your arms?”

“No, I don’t think I’m comfortable with that.”

“Um, okay. I guess it’s not a big deal…”