Cease, 3 home runs help fading White Sox salvage split against Guardians
It was a long day for the White Sox Tuesday, and it did not start well.
Manager Tony La Russa has been anything but a fan favorite since coming out of retirement in 2021 and returning to the Sox's dugout.
La Russa did get the White Sox to the playoffs last season, which was expected given the strength of the roster and the weakness of the AL Central.
The Sox failed to get out of the first round in their matchup against the Astros, but expectations were running as high or higher this year and they have not been met.
That's put a bigger target on La Russa's back, and he was getting it from all sides after the Sox lost Game 1 of a doubleheader to the Guardians at Progressive Field, 4-1.
NBC Sports Chicago studio analysts Ozzie Guillen and Scott Podsednik tag-teamed La Russa for failing to fire up his players after the uninspired loss and TV broadcasters Jason Benetti and Steve Stone questioned the Hall of Fame manager for intentionally walking Cleveland star Jose Ramirez -- on an 0-1 count.
Fading in the AL Central on a critical trip to second-place Cleveland and first-place Minnesota to close out the first half of the season, the White Sox did regroup in Game 2 and beat the Guardians 7-0.
Dylan Cease started the nightcap against Konnor Pilkington, a former Sox prospect who was traded to Cleveland last July for second baseman Cesar Hernandez.
Despite ranking second in the American League with 133 strikeouts and fourth with a 2.45 ERA heading into the game, Cease was bypassed for the All-Star Game.
The right-hander again showed why that's a mistake while allowing 5 hits and striking out 9 in 5⅔ innings.
"The biggest thing is just beating a Central opponent, but I definitely want to keep adding to what I've been doing," Cease told reporters after lowering his ERA to 2.30. "Incredibly important. Obviously, we're fighting back up the standings in the Central and every game's super important. It was good to split today and not lose both of them."
Jose Abreu got the White Sox off to a good start with a 2-run homer against Pilkington in the first inning.
Josh Harrison hit a solo homer in the second inning and Luis Robert added a 3-run shot in the ninth to break the game open.
"It was a long day," Cease said. "I think we're feeling positive. Offense was great this game, defense was good, pitching was obviously good. We definitely have momentum going into tomorrow."
In Game 1, Cleveland ace Shane Bieber pitched a complete game and allowed only 3 hits. Eloy Jimenez's RBI single in the seventh inning ended Bieber's shutout bid.
Davis Martin came up from Class AAA Charlotte to start for the White Sox. The right-hander pitched 6 innings and allowed 4 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks.
After the Sox salvaged a split, Davis was returned to Charlotte.