Dylan Cease in command as White Sox beat Rays 3-2

The 26-year-old right-hander allowed one run and three hits in 5 2⁄3 innings — the longest outing by a Sox starter this season — and Jake Burger homered and drove in two runs as the Sox improved to 5-2.

SHARE Dylan Cease in command as White Sox beat Rays 3-2
Dylan Cease became the first White Sox starter to get an out in the sixth inning this season when he pitched 5 2⁄3 innings in a 3-2 victory over the Rays on Friday night.

Dylan Cease (42) walked two and struck out eight in 5 2⁄3 innings against the Rays on Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Quinn Harris, Getty

There was a time when White Sox manager Tony La Russa would have been booed with cause as he made the walk from the dugout to the mound to pull starter Dylan Cease in the sixth inning Friday night.

The 26-year-old right-hander was in command and feeling good, pitching a three-hit shutout with two outs and a runner on first after striking out Rays No. 3 hitter Randy Arozarena with a 97.5 mph fastball. Cease had thrown 91 pitches.

But in the uncharted territory of a post-lockout season with a shortened spring training, yesterday’s over-managing is today’s managing. The crowd of 19,009 fans at Guaranteed Rate Field gave Cease a well-deserved standing ovation. And they were rewarded as the Sox’ bullpen — after a brief hiccup by Aaron Bummer — came through to preserve a 3-2 victory.

Cease (2-0) ended up allowing one run and three hits in 5⅔ innings, with two walks and eight strikeouts and a lot of gas left in the tank. La Russa acknowledged the temptation to let him go further but knew it wasn’t prudent.

“No chance,” La Russa said. “Everybody has different opinions, but he was at the point where any kind of stress in that sixth inning, he was going to reach back for extra.

“Pitch count was just one factor. He had to work a lot. It was a close game. It was err on the side of caution. You don’t push him. This is his second start of the season. You want him to be able to stay healthy [and] strong right through.”

Jake Burger homered off Rays starter Drew Rasmussen (0-1) and later added an RBI single. Second baseman Leury Garcia ended an 0-for-18 start to the season with his first hit — an opposite-field double down the left-field line that elicited his own mock celebration. Garcia scored on Burger’s single for a 3-0 lead that became all-important when the Rays (4-4) scored twice in the sixth.

But Cease’s pitching performance was the highlight, especially with starters Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito still out. It was the first time this season a Sox starter has gotten an out in the sixth inning. And Cease finished strong.

“Oh, yeah, I felt great,” he said. “I understand why [La Russa] did it — it’s early in the year. I think it’s honestly the smart thing to do, especially with the short buildup. It’s just one of those things you kind of got to deal with it.”

Bummer allowed back-to-back RBI doubles to Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Diaz to cut the Sox’ lead to 3-2, but he pitched a scoreless seventh. Kendall Graveman pitched a scoreless eighth, and closer Liam Hendriks pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the first time in four tries this season as the Sox improved to 5-2.

La Russa — with help from pitching coaches Dave Duncan and Ethan Katz — has a history of managing pitchers well. And Sox starters are 3-1 with a 2.64 ERA and 1.011 WHIP so far this season. Vince Velasquez

(0-0, 2.25) and Michael Kopech (0-0, 2.25) pitch the final two games of this series. So far, so good.

“Guys have stepped up,” La Russa said. “But I know the next two days, Vince and Michael are capable of throwing more pitches. There’s a lot of challenges ahead. I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times. For me, it’s if your head and your heart are there, then whatever happens, no regrets. And our head and our hearts are going to be in it. We’ll see if success follows.”

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