January 29, 2023

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Cease to take 'deeper dive' to see if he's tipping pitches

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CHICAGO — The White Sox were in trouble after just one Dylan Cease pitch during a 16-3 drubbing administered by the Red Sox on Tuesday evening at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Kiké Hernández launched that 96.1 mph four-seam fastball, per Statcast, deep into the left-field stands, and the night only got worse for the White Sox right-hander. Boston (20-22) scored four in the first inning off Cease, after scoring five runs in total during a three-game White Sox sweep from May 6-8 at Fenway Park, punctuated by Trevor Story’s three-run dinger to left. The Red Sox knocked out Cease after three innings and 71 pitches, as he yielded seven runs on eight hits and two walks in losing for the first time at home since July 21, 2021.

If momentum really is all about the next day’s starting pitchers, it’s understandable why a brief two-game winning streak came to an end for the White Sox.

“I think we’re going to have to take some time and look into it. They put some good swings on it,” Cease said. “Maybe leaving my curveball up a little bit. But like I said, we’re going to have to take a deeper dive.”

“You make 30-some starts and you are going to have some where your location is not good,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “And he just wasn’t sharp, and they were ready to hit and made him pay.”

Cease entered the opener of this five-game homestand as one of the American League’s most consistent starting pitchers. carrying a 3.09 ERA with a Major League-best 67 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings. He had allowed more than two earned runs in a start during just two of his previous eight trips to the mound.

It was less than three weeks ago, on May 7, when Cease held the Red Sox to one run in five innings while striking out eight. Boston’s aggressiveness on Tuesday could indicate Cease was tipping pitches, but he didn’t want to go there until a full review of this abbreviated outing.

“We’ll cover everything,” Cease said. “They definitely had some comfortable swings in there. We’ll have to see. I don’t really want to say it’s one way or the other without knowing for sure, but it’s possible.”

“The pitches that they put in play were, they had a lot of the strike zone,” said La Russa of the tipping possibility, especially with Cease having just faced the Red Sox. “So he just wasn’t as sharp and we got him out before he threw too many.”

This contest wasn’t a total loss, as La Russa termed it.

Jake Burger, who joined the White Sox on Tuesday when center fielder Luis Robert was placed on the COVID-19 injured list, made his Major League debut at second base in the seventh inning but had no defensive chances. Tim Anderson, Andrew Vaughn and José Abreu had two hits apiece, with Abreu launching his fifth home run in the fourth, and Vince Velasquez worked three hitless innings in his first relief appearance this season, striking out five. La Russa also got the ninth inning for Aaron Bummer, who came off the injured list on Sunday.

Tuesday’s best White Sox news came pregame, with right-handed starter Lance Lynn and left fielder Eloy Jiménez moving to Triple-A Charlotte this weekend to begin an injury rehabilitation assignment. So, this team is getting healthier and hopes to move closer to the lofty expectations set before the season.

Through a little more than the first quarter of this season, the White Sox (21-21) have played like an average team. They sit 5 1/2 games behind Minnesota in the AL Central, with the Twins beating Detroit again Tuesday. General manager Rick Hahn understands concerns over the slow start, but he doesn’t do a lot of viewing of the standings, with a belief that fortunes can change quickly for the better.

“We unfortunately dug ourselves a little bit of a hole,” Hahn said before his team dropped to 5-10 over its last 15 at home. “We’ve got so much season still ahead of us. And, frankly, we’ve had an extremely difficult stretch schedule-wise with 18 games in 18 days, a couple doubleheaders this past week.

“Now we’re at a point where we have a few more off-days sprinkled in. Hopefully we start getting some of the guys I mentioned earlier back, then we can start going on a roll and start hopefully hunting down the Twins.”

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