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Gamethread: White Sox at Angels

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Dylan Cease makes his season debut at a national level, while Yermín Mercedes looks to continue his hot start

SSS writer/podcasters Will Allan and Bill Meincke are taking in the ballgame tonight. No word yet on whether they were injured by Shohei Ohtani’s 450-foot cannon shot in the first inning.

Happy Sunday and Hoppy Easter!

Today, the White Sox will look to close out the series well against the Los Angeles Angels — and on a national level, in the first edition of Sunday Night Baseball this season. Although last night was messy on all cylinders, the season is still new and there is no need for major panic just yet. Currently sitting at 1-2 on the season, the South Siders hope to get the win to split the series and head to Seattle on a winning note.

First, let's talk about Yermín Mercedes, like the rest of the MLB is. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to jump from my seat last night at his routine fly ball to center field because I thought it was a home run in the eighth inning. Although he’s not hitting 1.000 any longer, Yermín’s .889 batting average and record-breaking start to the season is plenty impressive enough for his first two starts in the MLB. Hopefully, tonight he can spark the offense and display his talent for all of America to see.

Dylan Cease will get the start tonight for the White Sox. Cease has been struggling to find his groove now for the last couple of seasons, and has even underwhelmed many fans, but with a new season comes a new beginning. In 2020, Cease posed a 4.01 ERA with a 1.44 WHIP, going 5-4 in 12 appearances. The No. 1 thing that Cease needs to keep under control tonight, and this season in general: his walks. In Cease’s second and third starts this spring, he walked seven total in eight and two-thirds innings. The good news is that he completely dominated in his last spring training start against the Colorado Rockies, striking out 11 and walking none in 5 13 innings.

Cease hasn’t faced the Angels since 2019, so he will need to be on his A-game tonight to stifle the strong Angels offense that we have seen evolve over the last few games.

The White Sox will be facing Shohei Ohtani, who is one of the game’s most special players right now. The left-handed batter and full-time DH will be starting as the right-handed pitcher for tonight’s game. Confused? Yeah, I was too, at first.

The 2018 Rookie of the Year had a frustrating 2020, and critics were starting to doubt if his two-way style would work in the long term. After undergoing Tommy John surgery at the end of 2018, which kept him for pitching the entire 2019 season, Ohtani came back in 2020 and didn’t deliver as expected. He pitched in two games, and in just 1 23 innings total, he gave up seven earned runs and eight walks. By the end of the season, Ohtani’s ERA was 37.80, with a 6.60 WHIP. This spring training, his stats didn’t seem to go as expected, either. Ohtani ended with a 12.19 ERA, including 10 walks and 15 hits in just four games.

Tonight is his first start of 2021 season, to see if he can bounce back from his rough run last year on the mound. When Ohtani is on a roll, he has a great splitter that he threw 16.3% of the time last year, along with a fastball he threw 48.8% of the time.

Here is the rest of the lineup for tonight:

Tim Anderson will lead if off, and Yasmani Grandal and Nick Madrigal are back in after an off-day yesterday. Billy Hamilton will get the start over Andrew Vaughn in left field, as Tony La Russa continues to experiment with the lineup.

Here’s how the Angels will line it up:

No Jason and Stoney tonight, as the game will be televised on ESPN. For radio coverage, tune into ESPN 1000. Game time is at 7:37 p.m. CT.