Dylan Cease loses game but survives inning from hell in White Sox’ loss

Forty-four pitches in one inning? That’s a lifetime on the mound, and not a good one. Cease had a second inning — and beyond — he won’t soon forget.

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Chicago White Sox v Tampa Bay Rays

Dylan Cease watches Travis d’Arnaud round the bases Sunday after a second-inning grand slam.

Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Forty-four pitches in one inning? That’s a lifetime on the mound, and not a good one. That high a number isn’t meant to be reached, let alone survived.

Right-hander Dylan Cease had a second inning — and beyond — he won’t soon forget in the White Sox’ 4-2 loss to the Rays on Sunday.

Cease (1-2) trudged to the dugout at the end of the inning, having managed to find three outs amid much damage. He walked two and surrendered three hits, one of them a grand slam by Rays catcher Travis d’Arnaud. It all added up to, again, 44 pitches.

As Cease, making his third career start, labored, there already was action in the visitors’ bullpen, which is visible from the mound at Tropicana Field.

“More motivation to throw strikes,” he said afterward.

Relievers warmed up in the third, fourth and fifth innings, too, but they weren’t needed. Say this much for Cease, 23, the Sox’ No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline: He didn’t give in to the Rays as much as he stood up to them. By the time his work was done, he’d gone to the mound for three more innings of hitless baseball.

“I just wanted to get through five, at least, and go as deep into the game as I could,” he said.

While ex-Sox slugger Harold Baines was being inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, the Sox and Rays were putting on a clinic — after the second inning, that is — on how to pitch. In truth, there probably was a good bit of how not to hit mixed in.

But 2018 American League Cy Young winner Blake Snell (6-7) threw six scoreless innings, improving his career record against the Sox to 4-0 with an ERA of 0.86 in six starts. The lefty allowed zero runs or one run in those games.

And what the Sox accomplished was strange and impressive: Cease, Josh Osich and Jimmy Cordero combined for 6„ hitless innings to finish the game.

All three Rays hits and all four of their runs came in the same inning — the second, when Cease threw 44 pitches. Did we mention that already?

“Just one [bad] inning,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I give him credit. I tip my hat to him because I’m sure everybody in the world thought, ‘Man, he’s done’ after the second. He ended up giving us five [innings]. . . . This young man, he’s pretty impressive. His makeup and his desire for succeeding are very high.”

It was the first time in four-plus seasons that the Rays won a game with three or fewer hits. That’s not exactly the greatest way for the Sox to end a 2-8 trip out of the All-Star break, but “2-8” and “great” don’t belong in the same sentence, anyway.

A 10-game homestand — the longest of the season — against the Marlins, Twins and Mets beckons.

“There’s still a lot to be done,” Renteria said. “We’re taking huge strides forward. As these young men continue to grow into who they are and who they’re becoming, and we continue to add pieces that the organization has from within, we’re going to be on sound footing.”

Cease is working his way there himself. Like a lot of young pitchers, he’s struggling at times with his fastball command. That — and a hanging slider to d’Arnaud — was the initial story against the Rays.

But Cease turned the page after a brutal inning, and that’s important.

If only he could get back out there tomorrow. Even before he departed with the team for Chicago, Cease was counting down the moments until his next start.

No. 3 of his career wasn’t so terrible after all.

“I’m taking the positive out of every game I pitch,” he said.

Sometimes, it’s all a guy can do.

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