October 5, 2022

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Cease strong again as Sox reach halfway mark

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CHICAGO — Detroit’s 2-1 victory over the White Sox Thursday night at Guaranteed Rate Field marked the halfway point of the 2022 season for Tony La Russa’s crew.

The South Siders are on pace for 78 wins, sitting at 39-42, which is well below what will be required for the American League Central title or World Series championship goals talked about before the season. But what else do we know about the White Sox with 81 games remaining? Let’s take a look at a few things we saw during Thursday’s performance.

Cease is an ace
Dylan Cease’s
All-Star résumé received plenty of reinforcement in every area but the individual win column during his Thursday start. That win statistic doesn’t mean a great deal at this point for a starting pitcher, even though Cease entered his 17th start of the season with a career 10-0 record against Detroit. But Cease certainly gave the White Sox a chance to win, as he has done pretty much all season but especially over his last eight starts.

During that time, Cease (7-4) has a 3-2 record with a 0.60 ERA (3 ER in 45 1/3 IP) and 62 strikeouts.

“Yeah, I’ve been happy,” Cease said. “For the most part, I’ve given us a lot of opportunities to win, so that’s really all I can ask for. It’s been solid.”

Cease fanned eight in six innings, giving him 133 strikeouts on the season. That total leaves him behind only Chris Sale (157 in 2015) and Carlos Rodón (145 in 2021) for the most strikeouts in franchise history over the first 17 starts of the season. Cease threw 46 sliders among his 101 pitches, per Statcast, and induced 11 swings and misses with the pitch.

The lone Detroit run against Cease came in the fourth, when Javier Baez golfed a 1-1 slider into the left-field stands for his eighth home run of the season

“It was a decent slider and it got hit out of the park,” La Russa said. “But he worked out of tough jams, he finished strong. I thought he was outstanding. Didn’t deserve to be the losing pitcher.”

Home is not where the heart is
Thursday’s setback dropped the White Sox to 17-24 at Guaranteed Rate Field, which is borderline stunning after they combined to go 71-40 at home in the last two seasons, the best mark in the American League during that time. Struggles within the division can be added to the mix, as the White Sox dropped to 11-15 against the AL Central and 1-3 to start this stretch of 19 straight games against division rivals.

“Honestly, it’s hard to explain. It’s not really our job to explain,” said right fielder AJ Pollock about Chicago’s struggles. “We’ve got to go out there and we’ve got to fix stuff.

“We’ve got to put our good routines out there and keep working. You hope it turns. We had a good day the day before and it feels like a letdown today, but you’ve just got to keep working.”

Search for consistency
Since May 21, the White Sox have never been closer than 3 1/2 games back of first, but they also have never been further back than 6 1/2. The loss to Detroit leaves the White Sox at 6 games back, as Minnesota did not play.

This team is good but falls short of great, at least as of July 7. Perhaps just as important is that at some points, the Sox have looked great — but they’ve had trouble replicating that success consistently.

The Sox played some of their best baseball of the ‘22 campaign by sweeping the Giants in San Francisco last weekend, only to lose the first two games of an important home series to the Twins to open this week. They rallied from five deficits to win in 10 innings on Wednesday, only to leave runners on second and third in the ninth inning Thursday when José Abreu struck out on an elevated 98.1 mph fastball from closer Gregory Soto and Eloy Jiménez grounded out.

“Momentum is great,” Cease said. “But you have to show up and win the next one.”

So, where do the White Sox go from here? As the players have said all season, they have to keep working hard and hope the results match their talent level and effort.

“There isn’t a lack of work,” Cease said. “We definitely hold ourselves to a higher standard than what we’ve been playing at. At the end of the day we are going to keep putting in the work and there’s still a lot of season left.”

“Everyone wants to explain stuff. It’s tough,” Pollock said. “Those guys are on scholarship too, you know? You’ve got to go out there and you’ve got to keep working. It’s a crazy game, and if you stay focused and you keep working, you’re betting that things turn.”

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