Down 2-0 in their best-of-five American League Division Series against the Astros, the White Sox, after much deliberation, are giving the ball to Dylan Cease on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Manager Tony La Russa named Cease his Game 3 starter Saturday, pinning the Sox’ fading playoff hopes on the 25-year-old right-hander.
“There’s no doubt it’s gonna be electric,” Cease said. “What to expect? It’s going to be intense, for sure. I think it’s going to be pretty rowdy, and, hopefully, we give them something to get even louder about.
“I’m still very excited. Obviously, the stakes are high. I’m just grateful for the opportunity, honestly.”
La Russa explained that the Sox wanted length from their starter, and with left-hander Carlos Rodon’s balky shoulder still not 100%, Cease became the obvious choice.
“It’s a short series, and you have had all hands on deck the first two games,” La Russa said. “He was the longest guy there. I’m looking forward to starting him.”
“Tony talked to me and pretty much just let me know that I had the ball in Game 3,” Cease said. “He let me know yesterday. Just give me a little bit of time to mentally prepare.”
La Russa said before the Sox’ 9-4 loss Friday that Rodon’s bullpen sessions between Games 2 and 3 would dictate what he would be able to do in the series.
The Sox have not announced a starter for Game 4, but if they’re able to keep the series alive, starting Rodon could still be in play.
“It does [play a role] because there’s more certainty [with Cease],” La Russa said.
“But we have some optimism about getting him in tomorrow. Maybe [Rodon] can go for Game 4.”
Cease was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in two starts against the Astros this season. In his most recent start against Houston, he went only 3⅓ innings and allowed six earned runs.
The Astros’ lineup has given the Sox’ pitching staff fits by spraying the ball around and not striking out in the series.
“I’m not gonna put any extra pressure on anything just because it’s the playoffs,” Cease said. “I’m gonna follow the process and do what I’ve been doing.”
This will be the biggest start of Cease’s young career with the Sox looking to stave off elimination. But Cease isn’t one to get overly excited, even with everything on the line.
“If that doesn’t bring out the best in you, I don’t know what will,” he said. “We’re not sitting here moping or anything.
‘‘We have to do everything we can to perform and execute at a high level, and, obviously, the pressure is going to be high. But, you know, that’s the playoffs, and that’s everything we’ve been preparing for. So I think we’re more excited than anything else.
“For the most part, you just have to let go of what’s happened. We can’t change what’s happened, and now we’re just focused on doing everything we can to put ourselves in a position to execute at a high level and bring out our best these next couple of games.”