December 9, 2022

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Vaughn and Burger's blasts, Cease's 9 K's help snap skid

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CHICAGO — The door at the front of Guaranteed Rate Field’s Conference and Learning Center slowly opened following a 7-3 White Sox victory over the Royals on Wednesday afternoon, and a smiling manager Tony La Russa did a little dance as he walked through for his interview session.

There appears to be no video to have preserved this moment. But his reaction perfectly summed up the end of an eight-game losing streak and a seven-game losing skid within the American League Central.

“That was a more solid game in every facet,” La Russa said. “Just in a great mood. I can’t wait to celebrate.”

“Obviously, you feel great about today,” White Sox third baseman Jake Burger said. “Hopefully this is the start of a run on the right side of things.”

Here are a look at three key contributions from the streak-ending win:

Hitting in the second spot seems to agree with Andrew Vaughn and the White Sox. He drove in four runs on Wednesday, including the game-winning three-run homer off reliever Scott Barlow with two outs in the seventh. Vaughn connected off the first pitch from Barlow, who had just come in to replace Collin Snider.

“I was just going up there looking for a good pitch. I got a fastball middle up and put a good swing on it,” Vaughn said. “It was exciting. That’s the only way to put it. It was awesome.”

“Down and away. Missed up middle,” Barlow said. “He was ambushing that first one, and he got a good piece of that.”

This connection on a 91.7 mph four-seamer doesn’t happen for Vaughn if not for the two-out, seven-pitch at-bat resulting in a single by Danny Mendick against Snider. Tim Anderson, who had two of his team’s nine hits, followed with a single.

“It’s definitely something to build off,” Vaughn said. “Great at-bats, but I think we still have more in the tank.”

Dylan Cease retired the first 13 Royals he faced before walking Carlos Santana with one out in the fifth. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning when Edward Olivares opened the frame with an infield single. Cease admitted to thinking about the possible no-no, at least a little bit.

“But definitely not the main focus,” Cease said. “It’s more of just like noticing it more than just sitting there and dwelling on it.”

Cease finished with nine strikeouts and three walks, while also allowing three hits. The right-hander became the first White Sox pitcher to log a quality start in 2022, and the first one to complete at least six innings.

“He was exceptional I thought,” said La Russa of Cease. “Should have gotten the W; only regret.”

“I wasn’t really dwelling on that, but I definitely wanted to stop the bleeding,” Cease said.

Kansas City rallied for two runs in the sixth against against Cease, and had runners at first and second and one out with Salvador Perez coming to the plate. Cease struck out Perez on a 3-2 slider, and after a wild pitch and an intentional walk to Santana, Cease fanned Hunter Dozier on a 3-2 slider to strand the bases loaded.

“Maybe I got a little ahead of myself,” said Cease of the sixth. “But I was able to just compete, and sometimes it’s like that where you’ve got to go into grind mode.”

Only a triple separated Burger from hitting for the cycle. Instead, he settled for his first career three-hit game, launching a solo homer in the fourth off Zack Greinke to raise Chicago’s advantage to 3-0.

“I’m feeling really good,” Burger said. “I feel more composed, my routine I feel is a lot better. I think I understand the nuances and the amount of work it takes to put into it.

“Overall, I feel more comfortable. It’s been really nice with obviously José Abreu, Tim Anderson and guys like that that always are going to help me through a lot of things.”

Along with the losing streak coming to a close, the White Sox had a stretch of nine straight games with at least one error also reach a conclusion. It was a good enough effort to make their manager show off an impromptu victory dance.

“”I had some good friends text me right away,” La Russa said. “I said, ‘It’s just a game, no big deal.’ Bull crap [laugh]. This is life here, winning and losing. There were a lot of really good things.”

“What’s been done in the past is irrelevant,” Cease said. “Every game is a new game. The biggest thing is bringing your A-game every game.”

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