8 starts, 8 wins: Cease flat-out owns Tigers

June 13th, 2021

DETROIT -- OK, OK, stop us if you've heard this one: takes the mound. The Tigers are baffled. A little while later, Cease leaves the mound, victorious.

If that sounds like a broken record, it's because this tale has been told before. Many times. At least eight in Cease's short career, during which he's faced Detroit more than any other team and compiled an 8-0 record, a 2.09 ERA and 47 strikeouts in eight starts against the AL Central foes.

As manager Tony La Russa pointed out pregame, facing the same team two or three times -- especially, in this case, in consecutive starts -- would present a challenge to even the strongest pitchers, so it’s quite fair to assume Cease’s dominant stretch against Detroit will end eventually.

Saturday was certainly not that day. The right-hander carved through the Tigers' lineup with relative ease, overcoming a rocky beginning to compile seven strikeouts and allow just four hits over five innings as Chicago secured at least a series win with Saturday’s 15-2 victory at Comerica Park.

With the win, Cease became the first pitcher in White Sox history -- and the first in MLB since 2008 -- to win his first eight starts against the same opponent.

“The last couple of starts against them, I’ve really been locked in,” Cease said. “It’s just one of those things where if I’m executing pitches and bringing my ‘A’ game, I’m tough to hit.”

The victory didn’t have as much of an effortless vibe as Cease’s outing last Sunday against Detroit, when he went seven scoreless and fanned 10 during a game that saw La Russa move into second place on the all-time managerial wins list, but much of that was out of Cease’s control. On Saturday, the White Sox punished Detroit pitchers before Cease threw a single pitch, scoring a run on back-to-back doubles to open the game, putting three runs on the board and pushing starter José Ureña’s pitch count to 24 by the end of the first inning.

Newcomer Brian Goodwin led the way in his 2021 debut, finishing 2-for-5 with a double, a home run and five RBIs.

“Didn’t see that coming,” La Russa said of Chicago’s offensive outburst. “Usually after a game like last night, it’s a tussle, but the one thing our guys have done consistently … we don’t throw at-bats away.”

The White Sox added five runs in the second and fifth innings to give Cease a 13-2 lead and plenty of wiggle room, but the 25-year-old also battled long stretches of downtime as his teammates did their thing on offense.

This wrinkle -- which ultimately led to Cease’s departure after just 82 pitches -- was especially evident when he took the mound for his fifth and final inning after having sat through the top half of the frame, which lasted 40 minutes. After a quick strikeout, Cease allowed consecutive singles, as well as back-to-back batted balls with 101 mph or greater exit velocity, though just one fell for a hit.

“I had to go throw in the batting cage probably five or six times today,” Cease said about staying warm while Chicago hit. “I can’t complain. If you give me that much run support every time, I’ll take it.”

In the grand scheme of things, the outing remained business as usual. Harold Castro’s two-run homer in the first marked the first runs the Tigers had scored against Cease since Aug. 18, 2020. It ended Cease’s scoreless-innings streak against Detroit at 17 1/3, but more importantly, it seemed to make Cease mad. He set down the next seven Tigers in order before Robbie Grossman tapped a weak liner up the middle for a single in the third, then kept the Tigers off the board for the rest of his outing.

Cease’s offspeed stuff led the way. Six of his seven strikeouts came via slider or curve, and he drew 15 total swings and misses.