NOT A SWEEP, BUT STILL A LEAP

De­spite Cease’s loss in pitch­ers’ duel vs. Darvish, Sox show they mean busi­ness

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - SOX BEAT dvan­schouwen@sun­times.com | @CST_­sox­van DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN

It had the feel­ing of a play­off game, and it’s what the White Sox came here for.

A 2-1 loss to the Cubs? That was not on their Sun­day wish list, but all said and done, for a team look­ing to carve a niche among base­ball’s teams to fear and not push over, tak­ing two of three games at Wrigley Field will do.

Af­ter ham­mer­ing the Cubs with 11 home runs over the first two games, the Sox en­gaged in a tight pitch­ers’ duel against Yu Darvish with Dy­lan Cease, the traded-away Cubs prospect, pitch­ing like the No. 3 starter the Sox will need if they make the play­offs.

Darvish was un­scathed but for Jose Abreu’s fourth homer in a row — a solo shot in the sec­ond in­ning that ap­peared to leave Darvish with a look of amaze­ment as Abreu trot­ted around the bases — and Cease was, too, ex­cept for Kyle Sch­war­ber’s two-run homer in the sixth.

Cease felt the play­off vibe — in no way ex­is­tent dur­ing his rookie sea­son in 2019 — while watch­ing the first two games of the se­ries and pitch­ing in the fi­nale.

“Def­i­nitely,” said Cease (4-2), who low­ered his ERA to 3.13 with his fifth straight good start af­ter a dud in his first by al­low­ing four hits and three walks and strik­ing out five. “Watch­ing the eighth and the ninth [in­nings], when we had guys on, too, you could feel that in­ten­sity. We’re treat­ing every game like it’s must­win, so it def­i­nitely has that feel.”

The Cubs, their of­fen­sive strug­gles not­with­stand­ing, have been there, so th­ese three games against a peren­nial con­tender, re­cent World Se­ries champ and crosstown com­peti­tor were a lit­mus test of sorts for the mash­ing, bash­ing Sox in the fourth year of their re­build.

“The team has been build­ing, and there’s been a lot of hype,” Cubs first base­man An­thony Rizzo said af­ter the Sox beat the Cubs on Satur­day for their sev­enth win in a row. “It’s tough to be on the los­ing side of it. But when you see teams come to­gether like that, it’s pretty scary.”

Cease es­caped trou­ble twice. The Cubs had run­ners on sec­ond and third with one out in the fourth but did not score af­ter Rizzo got thrown out at home by third base­man Yoan Mon­cada (a re­view went the Sox’ way) and catcher James McCann threw out Will­son Con­tr­eras at sec­ond for the third out. The Cubs filled the bases with no outs in the fifth on two walks and a Mon­cada er­ror, but Cease struck out Ja­son Kip­nis, and short­stop Tim An­der­son turned an Ian Happ grounder be­hind the bag into a nifty dou­ble play.

Man­ager Rick Ren­te­ria liked what he saw of Cease, who kept his com­po­sure through it all. Know­ing Cease’s num­bers are in­creas­ingly bet­ter each time through the lineup, Ren­te­ria did not get his bullpen go­ing un­til af­ter the homer.

“He was crisp; he was sharp; he was still ex­plo­sive,” Ren­te­ria said.

“There was no need for me to even con­sider go­ing and get­ting him.”

The Sox put two run­ners on in the eighth against Craig Kim­brel and did not score and loaded the bases af­ter two outs against Jeremy Jef­fress, but Mon­cada grounded out to end the game.

“I felt like we were in it, in every pitch,” Cease said. “We’re a team that needs to be taken se­ri­ously, and I think they’re a great team, too. It’s one of those se­ries where we had two big teams clash with each other, and it was a lot of fun to watch.”

The teams will meet again on the last week­end of the sea­son at Guar­an­teed Rate Field. The Sox are 17-12 at the near-half­way point of the sea­son.

“The of­fense has taken off,” said Ren­te­ria, whose team leads the ma­jors in slug­ging per­cent­age. “If we get pitch­ing like we did to­day and swing the bat like we have, I’ll take it every sin­gle day.”

GETTY IMAGES

Dy­lan Cease, meet­ing with James McCann in the fourth in­ning, al­lowed two runs and four hits in six in­nings.

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