Cease solid, but White Sox streak ends at 7

August 23rd, 2020

CHICAGO -- With the halfway point of the 2020 season approaching this Tuesday, the White Sox find themselves in a very good position.

Their seven-game winning streak came to an end Sunday at Wrigley Field in a 2-1 loss to the Cubs. But that setback was more about what was done by Cubs starter Yu Darvish, who fanned 10 in seven innings, and the White Sox missing that one big hit with scoring chances in the final two innings. Yoán Moncada grounded out off Jeremy Jeffress with the bases loaded for the game’s final out.

The White Sox (17-12) are a playoff contender, sitting in third place in the American League Central, two games behind the Twins and a half-game behind the Indians. And as much as their offense has stolen the show over the last week, with 28 homers, 55 runs and 83 hits in their last 63 innings, having a young pitcher such as step up as he did Sunday proves just as important for the future.

“It was pretty solid,” said Cease of his start. “Too many walks still, still room to execute better. But I feel like I’m steadily improving every start. The biggest thing is just the history here, and at the same time, it’s a very talented lineup, too. It’s one of those games where you definitely want to bring your A game.”

Cease, who was selected by the Cubs in the sixth round of the 2014 MLB Draft, struck out five and walked three over six innings in his Wrigley Field debut and the 20th start of his career. He pitched out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the fifth by striking out Jason Kipnis and getting Ian Happ on a double-play grounder to shortstop Tim Anderson, and Cease executed another escape act in the fourth by emerging unscathed from a second-and-third, one-out situation.

It was Kyle Schwarber’s two-run blast to center in the sixth, following Javier Báez’s double to left, that proved to be the difference. White Sox manager Rick Renteria could have opted for a left-hander to face Schwarber in the third time through the order, but he held strong in postgame comments concerning sticking with Cease.

“He was crisp, he was sharp, he was still explosive,” said Renteria. “There was no need for me to even consider going and getting him. ... All things being equal, he is one of our guys, and he was throwing the ball really well.”

Schwarber connected on a 1-2 slider that caught part of the plate but certainly was not a hit-me hanger. The home run came one pitch after Schwarber swung through a slightly better located slider.

“It just backed up on me,” said Cease of the pitch to Schwarber. “Realistically, I would have liked to have gotten it a little bit more down and in, but it kind of just popped up. I’ll have to see the video on it, too. It was probably more of a cement mixer than it was one of my better sliders. I have to tip my cap, he hit it well.”

homered leading off the second, marking his fourth consecutive at-bat with a homer off a fourth Cubs pitcher. It was the 43rd time in history a player has gone deep in four consecutive at-bats, tying an MLB record.

With two homers Friday and three Saturday, Abreu produced the most homers by a White Sox player in any series in franchise history. His six homers in the Crosstown Series also tied the record for the most in a series against the Cubs.

Winning the series against a Cubs squad holding a three-game lead in the National League Central shows the White Sox belong in the talk of MLB’s top teams. With all due respect, though, Abreu doesn’t believe the White Sox have anything to prove.

“If you know yourself, if you know your team from the inside, you don’t have to prove anything to anybody,” said Abreu through interpreter Billy Russo. “You don’t have to show anything to anybody. You know what you can do, and you know what you are worth. I don’t think we came here to prove or show anything to anybody. We know what we are capable of doing.

“We can’t just fast-forward from here to the playoffs. We need to keep executing and keep doing what we have been doing and keep working hard. At the end of the season, we are going to see the results.”