The Chicago White Sox are back to better than .500, moving to 18-17 by opening today’s doubleheader with a shutout win against the Kansas City Royals. Dylan Cease was once again excellent, and though bullpen dramatics threatened to derail a would-be victory for the second consecutive day, the arms came through when needed. And, as has been the theme in recent victories, the bats did just enough to drop the Royals to 12-22 on the season.
Even including his unfortunate outing against the Yankees, each passing start from Dylan Cease makes it harder and harder to deny that we’re watching a different pitcher than the one who spent much of 2020 and 2021 refusing to let fans off the edge of their seats. Today was the 13th time Cease has allowed at least seven hits in an outing, and until today, he had never allowed fewer than two runs while doing so. He gave up four or more runs in nine of those other starts.
This time, there was none of the unraveling with runners on base that we’ve learned to look out for at times in his four seasons with the big club. He limited his walks to two and calmly filled up the zone when he needed to with runners on base. His fastball sizzled at 97 mph, touching 99, the hardest he’s thrown in several starts. It didn’t matter that it’s CSW% was a subpar 26%, because his slider was as unhittable as it’s been all year, drawing 10 swings-and-misses and five additional called strikes for a nasty 56% CSW.
Lifted at 94 pitches, Cease once again demonstrated improved efficiency, and he probably could have at the very least gotten out of the sixth inning without Bennett Sousa’s help. Regardless, that was the end of his outing, which looked like this on the whole:
The 25-year old Jonathan Heasley (pronounced like the White Sox outfielder currently hitting .214 in Triple-A) made his fifth career start and second of 2022, doing an admirable job of keeping the Sox at bay with five innings of three-run ball. He struck out just one and walked three, a seemingly impossible feat against the Sox lineup as of late.
Heasley gave Sox righties trouble with a true four-pitch arsenal, though none of those four pitches did fabulously in the whiff or called-strike departments. His fastball sat in the low- to mid-nineties with good spin and a good amount of rise, but Sox hitters nonetheless made contact at will, doing so 17 times in 18 swings on the pitch — and Heasley paid for it the third time through the order.
Overall, Heasley’s 88-pitch outing looked like this:
If you watched the game, you can probably guess this one: The first out with the bases loaded in Joe Kelly’s debacle of an eighth inning came with a LI of 4.25, highest of the game. The subsequent plate appearance was a close second, as the difference between no outs and one out with the bases loaded was worth about .07 of LI.
Naturally, Kelly’s 3.0 pLI was the highest of any player in the game. We can only assume that getting into the Pressure Cooker was his motivation for walking the bases loaded to begin with.
Once again, this one is pretty intuitive: José Abreu’s two-run double to extend the Sox lead to 3-0 had a .185 WPA, increasing the team’s chance of winning by 18.5%.
With little standing out apart from Abreu’s double, Dylan Cease’s 0.28 WPA was the highest on the night, though not without a valiant challenge from Nicky Lopez (0.27) and his three-hit day.
Luckiest hit: Pitchers were fortunate to have a relatively clean game in the luck department, as Hunter Dozier’s fourth-inning looper to left field falling in with a .320 xBA.
Toughest out: Leury García’s sharp, 105 mph liner to center field in the second inning found Kyle Isbel’s glove despite an .860 xBA.
Hardest hit: Fortunately, Salvador Perez kept the 108.3 mph single he smoked off Cease in the fifth inning on the ground.
Weakest contact: The sawed-off pop to second base that completed Kelly’s recreation of the Orlando Hernandez experience left Hunter Dozier’s bat at 51.2 mph.
Longest hit: Tough scene for the aforementioned Isbel, whose 393-foot fly ball doesn’t mean a whole lot in the gaps of Kaufman Stadium.
Magic Number: 3
José Abreu led all hitters today with three hard-hit batted balls of 95 mph or greater. He also walked once. May this be a sign of things to come, for the lord knows the offense needs it..
Hard-hit is any ball off the bat at 95 mph or more
LI measures pressure per play
pLI measures total pressure faced in-game
Whiff a swing-and-miss
WPA win probability added measures contributions to the win
xBA expected batting average
Who was the White Sox MVP in today’s Game 1 win?
This poll is closed
José Abreu (2-for-3, 2B, BB, 2 RBI)
AJ Pollock (1-for-2, BB, RBI)
Dylan Cease (5 2⁄3 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 SO)
Who was the cold cat in today’s opener?
This poll is closed
Luis Robert (RIP 14-game hitting streak)
Joe Kelly (Can’t mess with us like that, man)
Yasmani Grandal (0-for-3, BB)