MINNEAPOLIS – As Dylan Cease unwound in the clubhouse after his latest masterful start, the soft-spoken right-hander downplayed any lingering disappointment about being left off the All-Star team.
The jovial Chicago White Sox were more than happy to state his case.
Cease spun a one-hitter over seven innings as the White Sox walloped Minnesota 11-0 on Sunday to surge into the break by winning three out of four games against the first-place Twins.
“That’s what he’s done all year,” manager Tony LaRussa said. “He’s picked us up at important times.”
Cease (9-4) allowed only a fifth-inning single to Alex Kirilloff and two walks. Andrew Vaughn had three hits and three RBIs to help bring the White Sox within three games of Minnesota in the AL Central. Cleveland is two games back.
“We showed up,” Cease said, “and we showed that we’re still here.”
The White Sox had 16 hits on a hot and humid afternoon, including home runs by Yoan Moncada, Vaughn and Josh Harrison in the seventh inning. Chicago outscored the Twins 32-10 during the series to pick up two games in the standings.
“There’s no way we’re going to sit here and speak glowingly about the way we just played. We won one out of four of these games, and we had ambitions to do a lot more than that,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “That being said, I think it was a first half that was mostly good baseball, but we do have work to do.”
Lowering his ERA to 2.15 with his fifth scoreless start of the season, Cease struck out eight to become the fastest pitcher in White Sox history to record 500 career strikeouts. He got there in 399 1/3 innings, well ahead of seven-time All-Star Chris Sale (472 1/3).
Tim Anderson‘s two-out, two-strike, two-run single gave Chicago the lead in the fifth inning against Twins starter Chris Archer (2-4), who was cruising in his return from the 15-day injured list for left hip tightness until a two-out walk to Seby Zavala.
Vaughn followed with a two-run double four batters later to prompt Baldelli to pull Archer.
“He had his stuff working,” Vaughn said, “and then his stuff stopped.”
The White Sox then roughed up right-hander Joe Smith in a six-run seventh inning with a two-run homer by Moncada, a solo drive by Vaughn and a three-run homer by Harrison. The 38-year-old Smith did not allow an earned run in his first 16 appearances of the season. In 14 games since May 23, Smith has surrendered 23 hits, 16 runs and six homers.
The defending division champion White Sox were one of baseball’s most egregious first-half underachievers, having not been above the .500 mark since May 25. They’re 11-7 in July, though, and looking every bit the a formidable challenger to a Twins club that has been in first place for all but one day since April 24 when they finished a three-game sweep of the White Sox.
“Good teams are going to lose games,” Archer said. “What I like most about this first half is we haven’t played our best baseball and we’re in the position that we’re in.”
NEVER CEASING TO AMAZE
Cease has been the rock of a rotation featuring past All-Star picks Johnny Cueto, Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn. He leads the AL in strikeouts. In his last 10 starts, Cease has logged 58 innings with 79 strikeouts and just 34 hits and three earned runs allowed.
“I don’t know how he’s not in the All-Star game,” designated hitter Jose Abreu said through a team translator. “It’s crazy.”
The White Sox had closer Liam Hendriks added to the All-Star team in the last wave of substitutions for injuries and weekend starting pitching. Twins center fielder Byron Buxton was promoted to the AL starting lineup after Mike Trout backed out. Anderson is also going to the game in Los Angeles, as is Twins infielder Luis Arraez.
White Sox: CF Luis Robert was out of commission for the third straight day after feeling lightheaded in the first inning Friday night. He’ll have a medical exam Monday.
Twins: RHP Devin Smeltzer was sent down to Triple-A St. Paul to make room for Archer. With three scheduled off days over the first 10 days after the All-Star break, the Twins will only need four starting pitchers until August.
The White Sox host Cleveland for a four-game series starting Friday. They have 10 of their next 12 games at home, where they’re just 19-25 this year.
The Twins don’t play again until Saturday at Detroit to start a two-game series. Their next home game is not until Aug. 1.