CHICAGO -- Somewhere around 8:30 p.m. CT Tuesday night at a steamy Guaranteed Rate Field, White Sox starter Dylan Cease was flirting with a no-hitter and using an overpowering slider to mesmerize a high-powered Blue Jays offense.
By the time the White Sox came away with a 7-6 victory in 12 innings almost 4 1/2 hours after first pitch, it was amazing Cease was still at the ballpark.
“That might be the most fun one we’ve had this year,” Cease said. “To be down late, then come back and hang in there, and ultimately win it late, I think those are the types of ballgames that will get you into the playoffs at the end of the year."
“Those are fun games to be part of,” said White Sox second baseman Josh Harrison, who delivered the game-winning single with two outs in the 12th off Matt Gage. “Especially when you win."
This game wouldn’t have reached extra innings if not for a somewhat amazing White Sox comeback in the ninth against Toronto closer Jordan Romano, who wasn’t overly sharp in trying to close out a 4-2 lead. Romano walked Harrison to open the frame, but Danny Mendick’s double play grounder seemed to give the right-hander an escape.
Romano proceeded to walk Tim Anderson on four pitches, followed by Andrew Vaughn’s double to right-center. Luis Robert connected on a single to right field, against a pronounced shift, to tie the game at 4. AJ Pollock almost prevented extras with a line shot to center with runners on first and third, but the drive was snared by a sliding Bradley Zimmer.
Defense was the key for the White Sox in the top of the 12th with Vince Velasquez on the mound. Adam Engel made a running catch toward the line in right off an Alejandro Kirk connection, followed by Robert’s slick catch in center on Gabriel Moreno’s line drive. Engel then chased down Santiago Espinal’s long fly to right-center to keep the Blue Jays scoreless.
Harrison delivered with two outs and two on, as a slightly hobbled José Abreu easily raced home to move the White Sox to 33-33 and back to .500 for the first time in June. They also climbed to 3 1/2 games back of the Twins and Guardians in the American League Central.
“Once I got two strikes, I shortened up a little bit and got something I could handle,” Harrison said.
“He's got a career of making plays and taking tough at-bats,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “He got off to a slow start and now he's starting to be himself, but he's never lost his positive frame of mind in the clubhouse.”
Cease finished with one of the worst no-decisions a pitcher could have, allowing one infield hit to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and matching a career-high with 11 strikeouts over six innings. He recorded 20 swings and misses, with 18 off his slider, per Statcast, which was a virtually unhittable pitch all night. Harrison took the "virtually" out of the unhittable statement from his view.
“I was pretty much telling those boys good luck,” Harrison said. “He gave us everything we needed. It’s what you expect out of a guy like Dylan. He’s done it time and time again."
“It’s something that I’ve been working on. Just figuring out, basically, where to start it, and it was clicking from the beginning. So, I didn’t change anything, just went with it,” said Cease of his slider. “Being able to get it to that down and away quadrant consistently, I just think as a hitter it’s hard to lay off that. Then, throwing strikes with it as well, just puts them in swing mode.”
Toronto rallied to take the lead against rookie Davis Martin with three runs in the eighth, using three walks, two infield hits and a bloop single from pinch-hitter Cavan Biggio just over the outstretched attempt of Anderson. Martin was the man for the eighth with Kendall Graveman set up to close in the ninth and eventually allowing one unearned run in the 10th. Joe Kelly was not available, as he isn't being used in back-to-back outings since coming off the injured list.
Relievers such as Aaron Bummer and Liam Hendriks are on the injured list, while Matt Foster is on the bereavement list. La Russa mentioned Martin as an eighth inning possibility before the game, and told Martin as he took him out in the eighth to keep his head up after this outing.
These words probably were easier for Martin to digest after the final outcome.
“Our guys, they'll never quit,” La Russa said. “I told you a bunch of times, this club has my respect and admiration.
“They've got great guts and never gave in and never gave up. We've lost some games like this when we were not rewarded with a win. Today we were, so a very special win."