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White Sox, Cease no match for Yankees, Cole

In a matchup of playoff contenders, the Sox need to win Sunday to avoid a series sweep.

Dylan Cease looks on after allowing three runs during the fourth inning against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium on May 22, 2021 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
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It will be up to left-hander Dallas Keuchel to prevent the White Sox from getting swept in New York. And if the Sox are grasping for something to be positive about after two losses to the Yankees in less than 24 hours, perhaps they can look to him.

Keuchel (3-1, 4.44 ERA) hasn’t pitched like his former Cy Young self this season, but he has a 2.22 ERA in nine career starts against the Yankees, including a 2.45 mark in six starts at Yankee Stadium.

Then again, the Sox thought they matched up well in the first two games of a litmus-test series against another playoff-caliber team. Left-hander Carlos Rodon threw six scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts in a 2-1 loss Friday before the Sox called on right-hander Dylan Cease on Saturday.

But Cease, who was 2-0 with a 1.14 ERA in his previous four starts, was soundly outpitched by Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, who tossed seven scoreless innings in the Sox’ humbling 7-0 loss.

‘‘It’s been two rough days,’’ manager Tony La Russa said. ‘‘It hasn’t been fun.’’

Cease retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced, striking out four, but he unraveled after allowing a one-out single to Aaron Judge in the fourth. He issued his second walk while trying to paint the outside corner with breaking pitches to Gio Urshela, then watched Gleyber Torres drive a hanging curveball for a double to left-center field for the first two runs.

‘‘They did a good job laying off the slider,’’ said Cease, who allowed five runs, five hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings. ‘‘If I just execute a little better and get ahead [in the count], it’s a different ballgame. They had a lot of good at-bats, and they were able to get count leverage later in the game.’’

Rougned Odor doubled home Torres, who had knocked in both of the Yankees’ runs Friday and put two more runs on Cease’s tab with a bases-loaded single against Matt Foster in the fifth.

A 5-0 lead was plenty for Cole, who signed a $324 million contract with the Yankees after the 2019 season.

‘‘He’s elite,’’ La Russa said.

Even with Jose Abreu (2-for-4) back after missing the series against the Twins in Minneapolis, the Sox were overmatched by Cole, who walked three and allowed four hits while striking out seven. He also got the Sox to ground into four double plays, two by Yermin Mercedes and one each by Leury Garcia and Adam Eaton.

‘‘You look at potential rallies, but four double plays,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘He pitched to the rollover, where the guy pulls it to the pull side. We did a good job of getting rallies started, but he had the rally-killer pitch.’’

The Sox, who fell to 14-3 after a loss, dropped to 26-18. The Yankees, who have given up one earned run in their last four games — including Corey Kluber’s no-hitter Wednesday against the Rangers — are 27-19.

The Sox know a postseason matchup against the Yankees is possible.

‘‘We can’t get ahead of ourselves,’’ said second baseman Nick Madrigal, who had two of the Sox’ five hits, a triple and a single. ‘‘It’s great to be able to face these guys early in the year, but we do understand there’s a lot of games between now and October. And we want to peak when the right moment comes, at the right time.

‘‘It is nice to match up with these guys to see their arms and their bullpen and their hitters for [our] pitchers. But we understand that the most important games are later on in the year.’’

La Russa said there’s an important one Sunday.

‘‘We have to win to have an even road trip; that’s going to be our goal,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m sure we’ll come out ready to play and count on Dallas to give us his normal game.’’