Dylan Cease’s command was considerably less precise than on Opening Day as he and the White Sox bullpen repeatedly flirted with disaster, but the White Sox offense pulled through against the San Francisco Giants with seven runs on 13 hits to secure the win on a warm and windy afternoon in Armour Square.
Cease’s scattered pace and command were a sharp contrast from his dismemberment of the Astros lineup last Thursday, throwing just 52 of his 99 pitches for strikes and walking five in five innings of work. His velocity was down a full tick-and-a-half from the 97-98 mph range it sat in Houston, but it still generated a 50% whiff rate. The fastball wasn’t a problem, but what was was that Giants hitters simply weren’t chasing his slider and curve ball out of the zone. While the Astros swung at both pitches more than 40% of the time when they were off the plate, the Giants offered at them at less than a 20% clip.
Part of that is that a lot of them simply weren’t competitive pitches:
Nonetheless, Cease still managed to hunker down when it mattered most. After getting touched for an opposite-field home run in the second inning by J.D. Davis on a slider that caught too much of the zone, Cease worked his way out of multiple jams, punching out David Villar and Mike Yastrzemski in the third and Joc Pederson in the fifth to strand runners in scoring position.
What was helpful was the Sox offense, which spotted him a lead in the first inning and never relinquished it. Some of the terrible batted-ball luck the lineup underwent in Houston found its counterbalance in the nine hits in five innings off of Giants ace Logan Webb, including a soft, 77-mph, first-inning single from Luis Robert that turned into two runs (and an out at the plate) when it was followed by hits from Andrew Benintendi, Andrew Vaughn, and Gavin Sheets.
After Davis’ homer in the second cut the lead in half, the score remained locked until the fifth inning, when a trio of singles from Oscar Colás, Elvis Andrus, and Hanser Alberto — who entered the game for Tim Anderson after the shortstop was ejected following a mid- and post-AB dispute with umpire D.J. Reyburn — was punctuated by Luis Robert Jr.’s second two-bagger of 2023:
That hit also marked career hit number 2,000 for Andrus, the 30th shortstop to reach that plateau. Congrats, Elvis!
The Giants threatened to make things at least a little interesting, loading the bases in the seventh on a succession of hits and walks against Aaron Bummer and Reynaldo López, the latter of whom ultimately came through in the clutch by blowing a 3-2 fastball past Joc Pederson to escape the inning.
Joc and the Giants finally broke through with a pair of runs against Joe Kelly in the ninth — both a result of a yanked line-drive double from Pederson — but by then, it was too little and too late.
The Sox had answered the Giants near-rally in the seventh with one of their own, once again stringing together a succession of singles, but unlike 2022, they seemed to consistently result in runs. Their final strike on the board came after Yoán Moncada’s second knock on the afternoon, which scored Alberto and gave him his third multi-hit effort of the week, and it belonged to Gavin Sheets, who notched his first three-RBI day of 2023 (and the 12th of his career) against 6´11´´ Sean Hjelle.
The rubber match against Los Gigantes comes tomorrow afternoon, with first pitch once again at 1:10 p.m. CT. Lance Lynn is scheduled to start against Alex Wood, weather permitting. Hope to see you there!