ARLINGTON – The 2-1 White Sox victory over the Rangers Friday night at Globe Life Field was a game featuring a couple of pitching milestones for the visitors.
Dylan Cease, who allowed one run over six innings, recorded his 13th straight start allowing one earned run or less. He became the first non-opener to accomplish this feat since ERA became an official stat (1913), and has allowed a paltry total of five earned runs over his last 76 innings pitched.
What Cease started, Liam Hendriks finished. The closer threw a perfect ninth for his 22nd save and the 100th of his career. More importantly, the pitching excellence of the White Sox (54-52) brought them into a second place tie in the American League Central with the Guardians, leaving them two games behind the Twins.
“It’s why we come every day. So definitely a big one,” Cease said after improving to 12-4 with a 1.98 ERA. “Truthfully, I always have the next day mindset. But we got three good teams, all competing, so I think it’s going to be a really fun stretch of baseball.”
“We saw a different side of Dylan Cease,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “I think he had 40 pitches after two innings. And he ended up pitching through the sixth. Young man continues to impress, amaze. Works so hard and he just settled down.”
Cease walked two with two outs in the first inning and allowed an Adolis García single against the shift to give the Rangers (47-59) a 1-0 lead. Bubba Thompson singled and Marcus Semien walked in the second, but after Corey Seager pulled a potential three-run homer a few feet foul, he popped up to shortstop Tim Anderson to end the rally.
Seager’s popup began a run of 13 straight retired by Cease before Joe Kelly replaced him in the seventh. With his five strikeouts and three walks over 91 pitches Friday night, Cease has now fanned 95 and walked 34 during this amazing stretch. He posted a 0.33 ERA in June and a 0.76 ERA in July, and seems to be just as strong in August.
“I’m happy about it. I’m happy to be giving us a chance. Hope to keep it going,” Cease said. “It’s definitely the best I’ve ever pitched in my life.”
“He’s got one of the better sliders in the league … It’s tough,” Texas manager Chris Woodward said. “He’s feeling really confident, obviously, in the way he’s throwing, so I knew we weren’t going to square up too many balls, but we got a few guys who got some decent swings off on him. We just couldn’t catch him.”
Eloy Jiménez’s leadoff home run against Glenn Otto in the fourth proved to be the last run of the game. Jiménez knew he hit the ball a long way, but added with a smile that he started running hard right away because Globe Life is a big ballpark.
That drive carried 437 feet, so it really was no surprise when it cleared the fence. Cease’s excellence also is no surprise to Jiménez, who played with him when they were both part of the Cubs' Minor League system.
“He shows everybody that he’s competing right now,” Jiménez said. “It’s good to be on his side right now.”
“Even when he doesn't have his stuff, even when he doesn't have location or the crispness or anything like that, he grinds through and makes sure he continues to put us in a chance to win the game,” Hendriks said. “This is a testament to his ability to be able to mitigate the danger."
Over Cease’s last eight starts, he had been throwing his fastball 35.5 percent of the time, his slider at 51.3 percent, his curve at 11.8 percent and his change at 1.5 percent, per MLB Network’s Gameday notes. On Friday, he threw 37 sliders, 36 four-seamers and 18 knuckle-curves, recording 18 swings and misses, per Statcast.
It was a little more balanced dominance for Cease, who made a slight tweak in his mechanics in the third to get down the mound better to help him succeed.
“I wasn’t executing well … So I tinkered with it in warmups,” Cease said. “Sometimes all it takes is one pitch and I got that feel and I was able to ride with it.”