Sunday may not have been Dylan Cease’s most dominant performance. The MLB strikeout leader only recorded four strikeouts.
It wasn’t his most efficient either, as he allowed at least one base runner in five of his six innings pitched and a runner in scoring position in four of those five. But Sunday’s outing against the Cleveland Guardians did show how far Cease has come as a pitcher.
In years past, Cease had a tendency to unravel quickly with traffic on the basepaths. That wasn’t the case on Sunday. He was able to work around trouble and manufacture outs despite a dip in his usual strikeout numbers.
In the first inning, he got Andres Gimenez to line out to center field with runners on first and second to end the inning. In the second inning, he got Myles Straw to watch a slider drop in the strike zone to leave a runner stranded 90 feet from home.
Trouble was looming in the third inning with runners at the corners and just one out in the third inning, but Cease was able to escape the jam by getting Franmil Reyes to ground into a 5-4-3 double play. The Guardians had runners on the corners once again in the sixth inning, but Cease wiggled out of trouble once again by getting Ernie Clement to fly out to left field.
In 97 pitches, Cease tossed six scoreless innings with four strikeouts, despite allowing seven hits and a walk. Three home runs were more than enough run support to earn his 10th win of the season and third in a row. For a White Sox team that has struggled to find consistency all year, Dyan Cease remains one of the only constants.
Even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, he continues to find a way to get the job done. The same cannot be said for the rest of the team. The White Sox continues to hover around .500 like a little kid deciding whether or not to jump into a pool. Sure, they will dip their toes in the water, but eventually, they run away before working up the courage to dip their toes in once again.
A relatively easy upcoming schedule marks the perfect time for the White Sox to take the plunge into the win column, and Dylan Cease is leading the charge. With his All-Star snub officially in the rearview mirror, a bigger prize lies ahead of him.
After Sunday’s outing, Cease became just the second pitcher in MLB history to allow only three earned runs in an 11-start span. The other was Bob Gibson in 1968. Gibson took home the National League Cy Young Award that season. Could a similar honor be heading Cease’s way? It is certainly trending that way.
After outdueling former Cy Young winner Shane Beiber, Cleveland Guardians manager Terry Francona didn’t mince words when asked about Cease.
“I’m still trying to figure out how that kid didn’t make the All-Star team. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game.”
The 26-year-old Georgia native has accumulated four double-digit strikeout performances. In eight of his starts this season, he has thrown at least five innings and allowed three runs or less.
Opponents are hitting just .203 off of him. He has only allowed more than three runs in three of them. His 154 strikeouts lead the major leagues, while his 2.03 ERA is the fourth lowest in baseball. According to Baseball Savant, his expected ERA ranks in the top ten percentile of all pitchers, while his expected slugging percentage ranks in the top seven percentile.
Like everyone on the White Sox, he hasn’t been perfect this season. His walk rate is still much too high. But every time Cease takes the ball, the White Sox feel like they are going to win the game. Sometimes that is all you can ask for.