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Dylan Cease overcomes rocky first as White Sox’ bats come alive

He had a career-high nine strikeouts in six innings, and the Sox transformed a three-run deficit into an 8-3 victory over the Rangers.

Texas Rangers v Chicago White Sox
Yoan Moncada doubles in the third inning Friday against the Rangers at Guaranteed Rate Field. Teams are wearing special color-schemed uniforms this weekend, with players choosing nicknames to display.
Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Dylan Cease is nine starts into his big-league education.

His teachers love his potential. They know there will be ups and downs as Cease learns from his mistakes.

“Even when he’s had his little moments [of difficulty], he’s been able to settle down and continue to eat up innings and throw well,” manager Rick Renteria said.

Case in point: The White Sox’ 8-3 victory Friday against the Rangers.

An Elvis impersonator barely had finished “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Cease ran into trouble in the first inning. He walked the Rangers’ leadoff batter and gave up a one-out single before surrendering a three-run blast to the fourth hitter he faced.

The performance threatened to turn uglier than the teams’ jerseys for Players’ Weekend.

But Cease regrouped, just like Renteria predicted he would. The 23-year-old started pumping strikes and eating up innings.

By the time his night was complete, Cease had a career-high nine strikeouts in six innings. He did not allow another run after his bumpy beginning.

“To me, that was just a huge confidence boost right there,” Cease said. “Now I just need to not let those big innings happen.”

The Sox’ hitters did their part to help the rookie improve his record to 3-6. They transformed a three-run deficit into a five-run advantage with two runs in the second, three in the fourth and three more in the sixth.

Yoan Moncada punctuated the outburst with a towering two-run home run into the right-field bleachers in the sixth.

A year ago, Moncada was hitting .217 with 16 homers, 47 RBI and 179 strikeouts in 515 plate appearances through Aug. 23. This year, he’s hitting .305 with 22 homers, 63 RBI and 116 strikeouts in 417 plate appearances through the same date.

“He talked with [hitting coach Todd Steverson] last winter as soon as the season was over,” Renteria said. “They went over everything. He made a nice change, and obviously it’s paid dividends for him in many ways.”

The bottom third of the order started the comeback bid. With two outs in the second, Matt Skole and Yolmer Sanchez drew back-to-back walks against Rangers starter Lance Lynn. The No. 9 hitter, Adam Engel, promptly drove in both players with a double down the left-field line.

Cease got sharper as the night progressed, retiring 11 in a row from the end of the first inning through the fourth.

“It’s electric stuff,” Renteria said. “Sometimes you wonder how they can hit him. It’s just big-league hitters.”

Sanchez, Leury Garcia and Tim Anderson drove in runs to put the Sox on top 5-3 in the fourth. Anderson extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

In the sixth, the Sox turned to the heart of the order to chase Lynn and establish a comfortable lead.

Jose Abreu drove in the first run with a double off the base of the wall in straightaway center field, giving him 98 RBI. He needs one more hit for 1,000 in his career, and he needs two homers and two RBI for his fourth season with at least 30 homers and 100 RBI.

Moncada launched his two-run shot in the next at-bat.

Cease savored the moment. He has five more weeks before the end of the season to keep learning.

“That’s definitely my best start of the year, besides that first inning,” Cease said. “I’ve been having those big innings, which can be really frustrating. But as long as I keep fighting, I’m getting later in the game. I’m just happy we won.”