White Sox 3, Tigers 0: Dylan Cease has Detroit’s number

Dylan Cease entered today’s start with six wins in six starts against Detroit.

Seven shutout innings later, Cease is 7-for-7.

Cease used his favorite opponent to continue his pattern of answering weak starts with strong ones. Coming off a disappointing 3⅓ innings against Cleveland last Tuesday, Cease fanned 10 Tigers while allowing just five hits and a walk. He might’ve had six hits and one run on his tab were it not for Adam Engel, who robbed Niko Goodrum of a homer in his first game of the season.

Throw in perfect innings for Aaron Bummer and Liam Hendriks, and the combined run-prevention effort made one crooked number hold up as sufficient. Pair this win with Cleveland’s loss to Baltimore, and the White Sox now lead the AL Central by four games.

Cease had his fastball and both breaking balls working for him, resulting in 67 strikes out of just 99 pitches. The whiff total (16) doesn’t jump off the page until you realized that he also got 19 called strikes, which tied a season high he set in his gem against the Reds back on May 4. He spent the afternoon on the attack, and Goodrum was the only one who came close to making him pay.

Goodrum led off the fifth by swinging at a get-me-over curve on the first pitch and drove it deep to just right of center. Engel raced back toward the track with enough time to get his bearings. He located the wall, then located the ball, which had drifted back over his other shoulder. He turned to face the plate, then jumped in the other direction to catch a ball that would have landed on the harmful side of the yellow stripe.

Billy Hamilton might’ve made that catch, but Engel swapped places with him before the game, with Hamiton hitting the IL for the oblique he strained on Saturday. Every other center field option probably doesn’t get it done, even Luis Robert

The White Sox led 3-0 at that point, and they led 3-0 the rest of the way. They scored all their runs during a second inning that shows why Nick Madrigal bats ninth.

Adam Eaton sliced a triple inside the left-field line and past a sliding Akil Baddoo with one out, then scored on Andrew Vaughn’s single. After Engel popped out, Nick Madrigal followed with his own line-drive double to left, but it only moved Vaughn to third. The lineup turned over for Tim Anderson, who deposited Jose Ureña’s 1-2 changeup into center for a two-run single and a sizable early cushion.

The cushion stayed the same the rest of the way, as the White Sox managed just three other hits. They weren’t overmatched by Detroit’s pitchers, as they had the same number of walks, strikeouts and HBPs with two apiece. Most of the best contact stayed on the ground, and so the offense stayed grounded. Thanks to Cease, an otherwise quiet day at the plate ended up being loud enough.

Bullet points:

*Tony La Russa now owns sole possession of second place on the all-time managerial wins list with 2,764. Connie Mack is next … at 3,731.

*The White Sox eclipsed last year’s win total in one fewer game.

*Anderson bailed out Yoán Moncada and pantsed Willi Castro with a heads-up play in the seventh. Castro’s awkward checked-swing resulted in a line drive bunt. Castro didn’t know where it went, so he didn’t initially see the short-hop eat up Moncada, giving Anderson enough time to swoop over, round off the ball and fire to first.

*José Abreu had the day off after a rough stretch, giving him two in a row before the Sox resume play Tuesday.

*The game had a familiar finish:

Record: 36-23 | Box score | Statcast

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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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Willardmarshall

Does anybody keep a tally of memorable moments? Engel’s grab just the latest of so many this season….

MrStealYoBase

Toronto, Tampa, and Houston look pretty scary on the upcoming schedule, but when you look at the whole the stretch from here to the all-star break, the Sox have 31 games with a SOS of .461

Cleveland has a 32 game stretch with a SOS of .475

That is to say, a 4-game lead on June 6th looks pretty good all things considered, but the Sox should have an opportunity to maintain or grow it before the ASB, despite some tough matchups on the horizon and no opportunities to pin losses on Cleveland themselves until the last weekend of July. This is especially so if Cleveland wants to keep dropping games against the likes of Baltimore.

karkovice squad

They’re on a good trajectory for the postseason. Time for them to keep their foot on the gas and set expectations against their potential postseason matchups.

burning-phoneix

I think we have the edge on Toronto. Their lineup is scary but the starting pitching is vulnerable and full of lefties.

karkovice squad

No Robert and a slumping Mercedes has blunted some of the edge they built against LHP.

Toronto has also played a much tougher schedule which might be masking their competitiveness.

joewho112

What’s wrong with their starting pitching? The 3 guys the Sox are facing have ERAs under 4

texag10

Since the start of the NYY series (63 PAs) where Mercedes had 2 hits, he has run a 127/222/182 triple slash which is good for a 22 wRC+. He has 1 barrel and a 21.7% hard hit rate. I know he’s a great story and this is his first taste of the majors, but how long do we give him to adjust to the league “figuring him out” before we start rotating other guys in to the DH spot more regularly? At the very least, can we not bat him 5th every single game for awhile?

jhomeslice

I agree, his struggles need to be acknowledged. As do Vaughn’s against righties… a .196 average and .534 OPS is pretty miserable. He is raking versus lefties, but I would argue they can’t afford to keep playing him against righties. Unless he starts to hit better pretty soon at least. I don’t expect Lamb to continue to do well because he hasn’t had a good season since 2017, but he is clearly much better than Vaughn vs RHP in 2021. I suspect Sheets would be as well, with another homer as soon as he got back to AAA. Why they brought him up and sent him back down without a start or so much as a pinch hit at bat for one of their struggling hitters like Garcia makes no sense.

Last edited 1 year ago by jhomeslice
dwjm3

They aren’t going to start platooning Vaughn anytime soon. He will be given plenty of time to develop against righties as a former top pick.

jhomeslice

You are probably right, that sure seems like their plan. Hopefully he starts to hit against righties a lot better pretty soon to make it pay off. Otherwise I can’t see him starting the whole year without improvement. They are in win-now, not development mode. Their biggest weakness as a team and concern for the postseason is hitting vs RHP, and right now he’s another very easy out against them, top pick or not.

Last edited 1 year ago by jhomeslice
karkovice squad

It’s a lot harder to improve that way even if they do have a robust in-game feedback loop–which I kind of doubt they do, other than what players initiate themselves.

The ideal setup would be to mostly platoon him, work on RHP during off-days with a live pitcher throwing as close to full intent as possible, and give him limited in-game exposure to evaluate progress.

calcetinesblancos

Sheets didn’t play because the Sox don’t understand player development, and TLR doesn’t like trying to win.

As for the Merc, Engel coming back should help this situation, as he should be playing CF every day and you can rotate the other corner OF/DH types around as the matchups call for. I’d even give Lamb a chance here or there against a LHP if I had to.

Eaton has been playing too much. Credit to him for staying healthier than the entire rest of the OF, but he’ll be a better hitter when he isn’t playing every day. Hopefully TLR realizes this.

metasox

Sheets didn’t play because he was only called up as a precaution in case he was needed. If he did play and got a couple hits, then what? Sox weren’t planning to keep him up anyway, at least not at this stage

calcetinesblancos

Why would him getting a couple of hits be a bad thing? Even if he failed miserably during his short stint, so what? These quick call-ups are how minor league players get reality checks on their flaws and make adjustments to their game.

Besides, I find it hard to believe he would have been worse than the other options.

joewho112

I think the point is you learn nothing from playing him during a 2 or 3 game call up. Nothing he does will keep him here. He’s not going to learn anything. You have no reason to expect him to outperform anyone on the roster during his first few games facing major league pitching

metasox

Another consideration: there a lot of guys vying for playing time. Does it really make sense to tell one of them to sit for a game just to give a guy called up as an emergency two day replacement a start because what the heck

jhomeslice

When the guys who might sit are hitting as pathetically as Eaton, Garcia, or Mercedes when he was 0 for 25, and the guy getting the start or even pinch hit at bat is raking in AAA like Sheets has, the answer might be yes.

metasox

If Sox management wants to make a roster move, I am sure it will. But for now, Sheets is not one of their top 26. I know fans (including me sometimes) like to see the shiny new object, but still am surprised why anyone else is surprised why a guy called up as an emergency two day replacement didn’t play.

soxygen

Totally agree that DH versus RHP is an issue that needs to get worked out, but so does backup catcher (not unrelated because three of our many potential DHs are, at least ostensibly, catchers).

Mercedes over the past month is still hitting .375 in 32 at bats versus left handed pitching while Collins is batting .000 in 13 at bats.

Begs another interesting question: is Collins defense enough better than Mercedes to justify ANY at bats against left handed starters?

And not to return to Saturday’s bunt fiasco but…given those numbers and the fact that Mercedes was on the bench (and much to my surprise and delight was given an inning behind the plate later in the game), why the hell didn’t LaRussa just pinch hit for Collins against Holland with two on and no outs in the 6th?

Last edited 1 year ago by soxygen
karkovice squad

Fegan explained in his piece about his interactions with La Russa that TLR has artisanally crafted lineups and one simply does not make substitutions in the middle innings even if Derek Holland has replaced the starting pitcher and put the winning runner on base with no one out.

soxygen

Oh, well there you go. That explains it.

jhomeslice

There was a lot of skepticism and negativity about Cease coming into this year. He has certainly silenced most of that. Whether it is by his own development or Katz working wonders with him. He has his bad starts once in a while but they are rarer, and on this team, he only needs to be their 5th starter. Even if he struggles with consistency at times, he has dominated at times and is certainly more than adequate as a 5th starter. He might be the best 5th in baseball.

texag10

I think there are still some areas worth keeping an eye on. Specifically his HR/FB might be due for regression. He seems to be taking the best parts of 2019 and 2020 and combining them in to one season with a huge increase in whiffs so I think his floor has increased dramatically this year which is fantastic news. As with Rodon, they are both going to be fun to watch for the rest of this season.

soxygen

Re Cease, I was thinking something similar about home runs.

Cease’s HR/FB ratio in the first 3 innings this year is 4.8%. That isn’t sustainable. As a point of reference, his HR/FB ratio in innings 4-6 is 13.6%.

He seems like somebody who could end up figuring it all out for a few years and being a top of rotation starter. But I don’t think it’s likely that happens in 2021 or 2022. His splits against good teams also reinforce that assessment – he really struggles against the best lineups in the American League.

calcetinesblancos

Pretty funny considering he didn’t have that many total starts. But I swear there’s some sort of Chicago baseball disease where certain players are written off early in their careers. Not many players get to the show and dominate from the start.

jhomeslice

Exactly, he had like 25 total starts prior to this year, less than a full season, and people were ready to give up on the guy.

soxygen

Agree, but on the other hand I think some people are reading too much into a few really good starts, largely against bad teams, in a season where pitching has been generally dominant. I think he’s a guy where you just have to say: talented, but the jury’s still out.

If the question is: do you want this guy starting a playoff game in 2021, my answer is still probably “thanks but no thanks.”

soxygen

Just a quick check of his game log: he has had 3 starts against teams who likely be relevant late in the season: June 1 versus Cleveland; May 22 vs Yanks, and April 17 versus BoSox. In those three starts he has thrown 12.1 innings and given up 13 earned runs for an ERA of 9.49.

In his other 9 starts he has 49.1 innings and has given up 10 earned runs for a 1.81 ERA.

jhomeslice

You bring up a great point about how skewed their success is (not just Cease). They are 17-3 against the Tigers, Twins, Orioles, Rangers, teams with the worst 4 records in the AL. They are about .500 against everyone else, and have been mediocre at best against good teams like the Yankees and Indians. Hopefully they improve vs Toronto and Tampa. Their inability to hit RHP well doesn’t show up against the weak clubs because their pitching dominates them. But against better teams the Sox have shown a weak offense due to Eloy and Robert being out, and because Eaton was a pitiful answer to their offensive problems against RHP going back to last year. But considering their injuries, they are certainly doing as well as if not better than can be expected overall.

Last edited 1 year ago by jhomeslice
karkovice squad

Over the last month the platoon gap is narrowing some with Moncada, Grandal, and Lamb producing against RHP plus some flubs against lefties.

karkovice squad

He also dominated the Reds on the road which is no mean feat.

Consistency isn’t the hobgoblin of starting pitchers, tho, and hopefully he shows more of it.

soxygen

In terms of starting pitching, in my mind the difference between a #5 starter and a #4 or #3 starter is consistency. A guy you can’t count on to regularly give you 5+ is a #5 starter. A guy who you can reasonably rely on to give you 6 innings is a top 3 starter. In between that is a #4, but in my opinion Cease hasn’t gotten there yet.

jhomeslice

I wouldn’t pencil him in as one of their playoff game starters, only saying that there were doubts before this year about whether he was good enough to be a 4-5 back of the rotation guy. He looks like he will be a successful MLB pitcher for a long time to me, to what degree remains to be seen but he has shown much more reason for optimism than not.

soxygen

Agree that there is much more reason for optimism. My assessment is that he is currently a #5 starter on a good team. Asking more than that is “too much too soon.”

He certainly provides glimpses of #4, and it doesn’t seem out of the question that he could be a #3 by 2023. And he is definitely someone to root for – both because he seems like a nice guy and because long term (especially after trading Dunning) we need him in the rotation for this rebuild to be successful.

burning-phoneix

A few years ago, Whodathunk Tim Anderson would be covering the defense miscues of others?

Willardmarshall

TA, Abreu, Collins have all shown it’s possible to improve defensively — if only Eloy!

karkovice squad

Well, 2 of 4 ain’t bad.

soxygen

I think Eloy still has a chance to become the best defensive designated hitter in the American League.

overland

Credit Tony for the Cease start. Took advantage of Dylan’s dominance of the Tigers.

It is time we give TLR some love.

metasox

Presumably the comment was about the decision to swap Rodon and Cease, moving Rodon to Tue

overland

Arguably, Rodon was due that start. TLR made the call to skip it for Cease.
Results were positive so why begrudge Tony a bit of credit.

Malkatraz

They’ve been trying to give Rodon extra rest throughout the entire season.

karkovice squad

I’d also think a lot of the rest decisions lie with Katz plus whatever info Hansen provided before leaving for Intel.

calcetinesblancos

Engel doesn’t have to do much to be a huge shot in the arm for us. Neither Leroy or Billy can hit or get on base, and obviously Engel also plays a way better CF than Leroy.

I will say though that I have come around to keeping Billy on the roster. I do think he can help us win some close games.

dwjm3

I didn’t know Bad Leroy Brown was on our roster.

calcetinesblancos

Surprisingly the song never mentions his switch-hitting.

karkovice squad

Billy Hamilton with the .948 OPS against RHP?