Durable Cease handed loss despite quality start

September 17th, 2023

CHICAGO -- 's 2023 numbers have not been at the American League Cy Young level where they resided in ‘22. But there still are plenty of ways that he is showing his immense amount of talent.

With five strikeouts recorded over six innings during a 4-0 loss to the Twins Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field, Cease (7-8) sits four strikeouts away from reaching 200 for the third consecutive season. Sunday’s effort also marked his 31st start, giving Cease 95 starts since the start of the 2021 season.

If availability ranks as a big part of leadership and eventual success, Cease has consistently shown to be ready to go every five days.

“For me, I value it heavily,” Cease said of his durability. “It depends on who you’re asking. Everyone wants results is the number one thing, but you can’t get them unless you’re out there. It’s something I take pride in.”

“When you got a guy that doesn’t miss a start for four years, that’s pretty special,” White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “That doesn’t happen often. Very few guys out there who will do that. He’s extremely durable.”

Cease deserved a better fate on Sunday, with Minnesota (79-71) scoring all three runs off Cease in the fifth inning via Edouard Julien’s opposite-field three-run home run. Before the homer, Ryan Jeffers singled with one out and then Kyle Farmer drew a walk as a result of a nine-pitch battle.

Grifol thought that ninth pitch on a 3-2 count was strike three. Had it been called, it would have been a strikeout/caught stealing double play to end the inning, as Jeffers was called out at second base by umpire Alan Porter after trying to steal second on the play. However, the out call was negated with the walk. But with two on and still one out, Julien connected on a 3-2 pitch (a 95.2 mph four-seam fastball) to break the scoreless tie.

“It wasn’t my best [start], but kept us in it. [I] went six, which is nice. It was decent,” said Cease of his 106-pitch outing. “Lately, I’ve been bouncing my slider a lot instead of getting it in the zone. Just executing [it] better.”

“We tend to always want more [from Cease] because he’s extremely talented, but what he does is pretty good,” Grifol said. “That’s a big part of it. He’s a relentless worker and takes pride in his craft. He’s going to continue to do what he’s got to do to be back where he was last year.”

The White Sox (57-93) did very little against Sonny Gray (8-7) and two relievers, finishing with one walk against reliever Emilio Pagán in the ninth. They drew one walk in the opener of the series and one more in the second game, giving them a paltry three free passes for the four-game set.

Entering Sunday, the White Sox had a .293 on-base percentage, which ranked 30th in the Majors, and they were the only team below .300. Their 346 walks entering Sunday also ranked last. It’s one of the many areas of needed change for this team in ‘24.

“We chase a lot. We know that. It’s not a secret,” Grifol said. “We [have to] hone in on the strike zone, on our strike zone, on good pitches to hit and take the ones we can’t hit. If it means we take a walk, we take a walk.

“You don’t go up there to draw a walk. You go up there to hit, but you go up there to hit certain pitches you can hit. That’s how walks come about. So, it’s something we have to bear down on, work on and be better at it.”

With their series loss to the Twins, the White Sox have a six-series losing streak. They are 10-24 in their last 34 games, 16-36 in their last 52 and need to go 6-6 against Washington, Boston, Arizona and San Diego to avoid losing 100 on the season.

Sunday’s setback dropped the White Sox final mark against the American League Central to 23-29. Winning against your own division is an important factor for success, but the White Sox players look at that aspect as a small subset for improvement.

“We've got to do better in general against everybody, in division [and] out of division,” White Sox right fielder Gavin Sheets said. “We've just got to do better. That's the main goal next year: win more games. Obviously, in division you want to take care of, but just overall."

“Yeah, especially now that the schedule is broader,” Cease said. “It just comes down to did you win or not.”