Chicago White Sox snap losing streak with Dylan Cease’s strong start

After eight straight losses, the Chicago White Sox were desperate for a win on Wednesday. The second game of the series against the Kansas City Royals ended up making fans nervous late but the team pulled away and won their seventh game of the season 7-3.

The White Sox needed a strong start and that’s exactly what they received from Dylan Cease. Cease has quietly emerged as the best starting pitcher for the White Sox this season, allowing only eight runs and 16 hits in four starts while tossing 28 strikeouts. The right-handed starter not only gave the team a strong start, helping snap the losing streak but provided a reminder of why he is becoming an elite pitcher.

Cease’s pitch breakdown vs. the Royals (99 pitches): 44 fastballs. 35 sliders. 20 knuckle curves. 

Cease’s start – 6 innings, 9 K’s

Cease was electric to start the game, controlling his three pitches and forcing the Royals to chase pitches. After allowing four runs in the previous start, Cease was determined to bounce back but also provide the White Sox with longevity in the start, something the team hasn’t seen from its starters this season.

Through the first five innings, Cease pitched no-hit ball. Granted, contact and runs are down throughout the league but the outing was still remarkable early on. Cease pitched five innings with six strikeouts, eventually striking out the side in the sixth to finish the game with a season-high nine strikeouts.

Moreover, it was how Cease was pitching that made the game unique. Notably, how he integrated a new pitch into his arsenal and located his two favorite pitches.

Cease’s command

The fastball-slider combination has been Cease’s bread and butter throughout the season. The recent start was no exception. However, what makes the two pitches from Cease unique is his ability to locate both of them. The fastball tends to be up in the strike zone if not a high ball, which Royals’ sluggers were quick to swing at. The slider meanwhile dips into the lower half of the zone, unlike some pitchers who will bounce the off-speed pitch.

Against the Royals, you can see how Cease drops the slider. However, it’s worth noting that the pitch is still caught by catcher Reese McGuire and isn’t hitting the dirt.

Ideally, pitchers want to have their sliders hit the dirt but for Cease, this isn’t an issue. Moreover, with the fastball still powering through the strike zone, the Royals batters are forced to swing at both pitches, oftentimes resulting in quick plate appearances.

What also stood out from the start against the Royals was the addition of a knuckle curve. Cease threw the pitch 20 times and only half of them ended up in the strike zone. However, the pitch added another dimension to the start and forced the Royals batters to guess on another unpredictable pitch. Cease’s knuckle-curve particularly has a varied moment and a steep drop so when it lands in the zone, it’s a filthy pitch.

Dylan Cease, Beautiful 79mph Knuckle Curve. 😍
67″ of drop. https://t.co/J5NfTI705B

Cease adding the knuckle-curve only adds to his ability to dominate on the mound. A fastball-slider combination can make any pitcher great but Cease continuing to work on the third pitch can turn him into an elite pitcher in the MLB this season.

Cease struggles in the sixth inning

The start was exceptional through the first five innings, highlighted by the possibility of throwing a no-hitter. The bad inning started with a weak grounder to third baseman Jake Burger, giving the Royals their first hit of the game. Then things started to rapidly decline for Cease.

With two runners on and one out, the Royals had their ideal hitter at the plate in contact-happy Whit Merrifield. A slider to the lower outside corner of the strike zone was sliced into the right field for a base hit. Cease isn’t missing the strike zone with his slider and late in the game, it finally cost him.

The next run could be blamed on fielding and the weather. Cease went back to the fastball and forced a pop-up to shallow left field. Unfortunately, with Eloy Jimenez out of the lineup, the White Sox had Andrew Vaughn in the outfield, who couldn’t get the blooper in time.

Fortunately, Cease went back to the slider, closing out the inning and preserving the lead. White the Royals tied the game in the top of the seventh, the strong start from Cease that also gave the bullpen a much-needed night off, helped fuel the victory for the White Sox. The lineup ended up taking over the game in the final few innings, scoring four runs in the final two frames, but the strong start what exactly what this team needed.

Is Cease the ace of the White Sox rotation?

It’s early on in the season and there are a lot of starts left in the White Sox season. Lucas Giolito has proven he is still a dominant starter on the mound, albeit, in short bursts this season. Meanwhile, Lance Lynn has yet to pitch this season and after finishing last year as a Cy Young finalist. Lynn looks to eventually return to form when he is back in the rotation.

However, in four starts, Cease has been the most reliable and best pitcher in the White Sox rotation. The consistency on the mound and strong starts have made Cease the number one starter through the first month of the season. Moreover, the 27-year-old pitcher has proven he can command both the fastball and slider while recently, integrating the knuckle-curve into his arsenal. Through a rough start to the season, the White Sox might have found their star on the mound.

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