Seeking a two-game sweep of their home interleague series against the Colorado Rockies, the Chicago White Sox will turn to ace right-hander Dylan Cease on Wednesday afternoon.
Relying on the American League Cy Young Award contender has been a steady proposition for the White Sox (73-69) throughout the season. Still, Cease (14-6, 2.06 ERA) showed flashes even before his breakthrough campaign.
“He’s definitely proven (himself) time after time, the big moment he’s handling,” Chicago pitching coach Ethan Katz said. “And he has stepped up all season for us and he’s continued to lead this team and the staff in helping us win a lot of games.
“There’s a lot of things he’s learned over the course of the last two years, and he’s been able to handle bigger moments and been able to slow the game down. It’s nice to see. He’s really developing nicely.”
After falling one out short of a no-hitter in an eventual complete-game shutout of the visiting Minnesota Twins on Sept. 3, Cease pitched six innings of shutout ball to defeat the host Oakland A’s on Thursday. In two September starts, Cease has amassed four hits, four walks and 16 strikeouts in 15 scoreless innings.
He will look to be equally electric in his first career appearance against Colorado while keeping the White Sox in the hunt to repeat as AL Central division champions. Chicago is three games behind the Central-leading Cleveland Guardians (75-65) with 19 games remaining.
Meanwhile, Colorado (61-81) hopes to even the season series with Chicago. After the teams split a pair of games in Denver in late July, the White Sox edged the Rockies 4-2 on Tuesday night behind home runs from Eloy Jimenez and Jose Abreu and five strong innings from right-hander Michael Kopech.
Left-hander Kyle Freeland (8-9, 4.63 ERA) is set to get the call for Colorado. In his lone career appearance against the White Sox as a rookie on July 9, 2017, Freeland pitched 8 1/3 shutout innings, losing a no-hitter on Melky Cabrera’s single with one out in the ninth.
Freeland snapped a five-start winless streak in his most recent outing, topping the Milwaukee Brewers on Sept. 7 behind six innings of one-run, two-hit ball. He walked one and fanned eight.
“Create that culture of winning in this clubhouse, you know, regardless of what this season looks like right now,” Freeland said. “We need to show these young guys that we’re going to win. We need to teach them how to win at this level.”
White Sox manager Tony La Russa remains sidelined with a heart issue. He watched Tuesday’s game from a suite and is expected to be in the ballpark for Wednesday’s game, as well, without managing.
La Russa hasn’t led the team since leaving before an Aug. 30 home game against the Kansas City Royals. The White Sox have won 10 of 14 under acting manager Miguel Cairo, the team’s bench coach.
Closer Liam Hendriks feels the team’s improved play and energy shouldn’t be in jeopardy should La Russa return to the dugout, though the timeframe for that is uncertain.
“I don’t think the vibe should change,” Hendriks said, “and if it does for anybody, that’s an issue they have within themselves. That just means you’re looking for an excuse.”
–Field Level Media