CLEVELAND — Dylan Cease is as low-key as they come, but he doesn’t need to find reasons to get amped up.
Two things got him going Tuesday, however — an All-Star snub this week and the White Sox’ desperate need for a win after dropping the first two games of their road trip, including a lackluster 4-1 loss in Game 1 of a split doubleheader against the Guardians.
Cease pitched 52⁄3 innings of scoreless, five-hit ball, and Jose Abreu, Josh Harrison and Luis Robert homered, lifting the Sox (42-45) to an “incredibly important” 7-0 victory in Game 2, according to Cease (8-4), who struck out nine, walked three and lowered his ERA to 2.30, exiting with a 4-0 lead. Robert’s three-run homer into the right-field corner in the ninth blew the game open.
Cease acknowledged that being overlooked served as a spur, but “the biggest thing is just beating a Central opponent,” he said. “I definitely want to keep adding to what I’ve been doing.”
Facing a team with the lowest strikeout rate (18.6%) entering the day, Cease’s nine whiffs gave him the major-league lead with 142, one more than Rays All-Star Shane McClanahan. Cease set a franchise record with his ninth consecutive start allowing one or fewer earned runs, surpassing eight-game streaks by Tommy John in 1968 and Jim Kaat in 1974-75.
In nine starts since May 29, Cease has allowed three earned runs with 71 strikeouts in 51 innings. He threw 106 pitches, including 57 sliders.
“It’s just a good pitch,” he said.
His last pitch was a fastball for ball four to former Sox prospect Alex Call, loading the bases with two outs in the sixth. Reynaldo Lopez struck out Luke Maile to keep Cleveland off the scoreboard.
“I’m frustrated with how the last inning ended,” Cease said. “They are a team that’s going to make you work. A lot of contact guys.”
Cease is slated to make his next start Sunday, when the Sox complete a four-game series at Minnesota heading into the All-Star break.
“That’s an All-Star-worthy performance, comes in here and picks us up like that,” manager Tony La Russa said.
Grandal shifts to Charlotte
Catcher Yasmani Grandal’s rehab assignment transitioned from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte. Grandal, who went on the injured list because of back spasms, was 3-for-7 with six walks in 13 plate appearances at Birmingham. He is expected to DH twice and catch three times in his next five games.
His earliest return is expected to be July 22 after the All-Star break.
This and that
The Sox are 2-6 against Cleveland and 14-18 against the American League Central.
† Outfield prospect Oscar Colas was promoted to Birmingham. Colas, who batted .312/.369/.475 at High-A Winston-Salem, will represent the Sox in the Futures Game.
† Shortstop Colson Montgomery is the No. 53 prospect in Baseball America’s latest list of the top 100 players, marking the first time this year the Sox have a top-100 player. He homered in his first at-bat Tuesday, extending his on-base streak to 46 games between Low-A Kannapolis and Winston-Salem (16 games).
† The Sox traded Konnor Pilkington to Cleveland for second baseman Cesar Hernandez at the trade deadline last season.
† In Game 1, Shane Bieber became the first Cleveland pitcher to throw a nine-inning complete game with fewer than 100 pitches since Corey Kluber on Aug. 4, 2018.
† Danny Mendick underwent surgery to repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament.