CHICAGO -- The Guaranteed Rate Field crowd of 7,628 began to noticeably cheer during the second inning of an 11-0 White Sox drubbing of the Tigers Thursday night, giving the White Sox (14-10) a doubleheader sweep and eight wins in their past 10 games.
But the crescendo from the White Sox faithful had nothing to do with the 2-2 pitch delivered by starting pitcher Dylan Cease to Akil Baddoo at that moment, although Cease was brilliant during the first complete game and shutout of his career. They were celebrating news of the Bears selecting Justin Fields, a potential franchise quarterback, with the No. 11 pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. Chants of “Justin Fields” permeated the ballpark soon thereafter.
It didn’t take long for the faithful to return their focus to the White Sox, who provided many reasons of their own to cheer against the overmatched last-place team from the American League Central. Carlos Rodón struck out 12 over six innings in a 3-1, Game 1 victory, finishing off an amazing April with a 4-0 mark and 0.72 ERA.
Cease was equally as good in the nightcap, improving to 6-0 lifetime against the Tigers in six career starts, as he worked at least five innings for the first time this season. The right-hander struck out nine in a complete game shutout, and most importantly, didn’t issue a walk.
A noticeably annoyed Cease stated things would be different after being staked to a 5-0 lead against Texas in his last start but failed to get out of the fourth. He wanted to focus less on the work in between starts to make his delivery mechanics smooth and instead just look at competing and making his pitches.
Mission accomplished, with Cease throwing 66 of his 91 pitches for strikes. He also recorded 16 swings and misses, per Statcast, with eight coming off the slider.
“The biggest thing is not getting discouraged and basically just following your process,” Cease said. “Keep a level head. Eventually it will work out. It allowed me to focus on what was more important which is how you execute your pitches. Mechanics felt great. I’m happy with how it turned out.”
Leury García drove in five between the two games, including a game-winning two-run single off of Casey Mize in the fifth inning of the opener. José Abreu had two hits and two RBIs in the nightcap, while Andrew Vaughn knocked out two doubles and a single in Game 2. Yoán Moncada added a three-run homer during a seven-run fifth, while Yermín Mercedes added a 449 foot blast to center.
“Today was a day that we were able to combine good pitching with good hitting,” said García, through interpreter Billy Russo. “And we know that if we are able to combine that and sustain that as long as the season goes, we're going to be in a good spot to get to the postseason."
“Well, talk is cheap,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “You have to go out there and play but we have an excellent chance to contend to the end and be a legitimate team to think about October. We only have five months and 140 something games to go.”
Business picks up this weekend with Cleveland coming to town and Shane Bieber, the reigning American League Cy Young winner, starting Friday. Dallas Keuchel gets the call for the White Sox, with it becoming the left-hander’s turn to work. He'll try to keep the dominance going after Rodón and Cease combined to throw 13 innings, allowing just five hits and one run while striking out 21.
“It needs to be in all our mindsets, the whole staff,” Rodón said. “The whole rotation needs to think that day that they're the ace and they're going to come out and get a W.”
“He told everybody he just was going to do all the work to get his delivery right and when he got into the game, he was just going to compete,” added La Russa of Cease. “See the glove and throw it. And that was a vintage outstanding first to last pitch, command of all the pitches.”