When you’re a major-league pitcher and are mentioned alongside Bob Gibson, you know you’re doing something right.
And Dylan Cease has been doing plenty right during a historic run.
The Chicago White Sox right-hander followed up a fantastic June with a July that was just as impressive. He was named the American League Pitcher of the Month in both months.
He allowed one run on two hits in six innings Friday in his first August start, earning the win in a 2-1 victory against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field.
It was his 13th consecutive start allowing one or no earned runs. He’s the first starter (non-opener) in American or National League history to accomplish the feat, according to STATS.
“Truthfully I don’t really think about it that much,” Cease said of the stretch after Friday’s game. “I’m more focused on what I need to do to keep it going.”
Manager Tony La Russa credited Cease for avoiding distractions.
“The most important thing is the way that he’s handling it mentally,” La Russa said after Friday’s game. “Feels good and he’ll come to work tomorrow and prepare for his next start. He’s done a terrific job of putting it behind him. And it’s what’s next.”
Cease is 12-4 with a 1.98 ERA and 166 strikeouts in 22 starts this season. He’s the first Sox to earn Pitcher of the Month honors twice in the same season and joins Chris Sale (twice), José Contreras (three times) and Mark Buehrle (twice) as the only Sox to win the award multiple times.
Here are three more numbers during the stretch that illustrate why Cease is in the discussion for the American League Cy Young Award.
Cease has a 0.59 ERA and a .174 opponents average during the remarkable 13-start streak. That’s the fourth-best ERA since 1913 over any 13-start stretch in the same season.
Hall of Famer and St. Louis Cardinals great Gibson tops the list with a 0.53 ERA from June 6-Aug. 9, 1968. He won the National League Cy Young and MVP awards that season.
Jake Arrieta had a 0.57 ERA for the Cubs from July 30-Oct. 2, 2015, in his Cy Young season.
Hall of Famer Don Drysdale had a 0.59 ERA for the Los Angeles Dodgers from May 5-June 26, 1968. He allowed seven earned runs in 107⅓ innings.
Cease has allowed five earned runs in 76 innings during his stretch that started May 29. His 1.98 ERA is the third-lowest by a Sox pitcher over his first 22 starts of a season since 1920, trailing only Gary Peters (1.50 in 1963) and Tommy John (1.94 in 1968).
“I’m just trying to do the same thing every start, really,” Cease said Tuesday. “The biggest emphasis and focus for me is what I have to focus on to actually execute. I try not to get carried away with anything other than, ‘Hey, what’s my focus today?’ I try to visualize it, try to focus on it.
“I think that’s maybe where consistency comes from. I’m just trying to take the ball every day, execute pitches and be stable and be someone that can be relied on.”
Cease retired the last 13 batters he faced Friday. He concluded his night striking out Adolis García to wrap up the sixth inning.
He had five strikeouts Friday and has 95 during the 13-game stretch.
His 166 strikeouts this season rank second in the American League, and he leads the AL with 12.18 strikeouts per nine innings.
“It sucks for me coming in after him because we have the same stuff but his is actually just better. That is not fun for me,” Sox closer Liam Hendriks joked Friday after earning the save, the 100th of his career. “Obviously he wasn’t as crisp as he would have liked (Friday, walking three), but (he) was able to get us through six and keep us in position to win.
“After the first inning he was pretty much untouchable. That’s something that he does. He has that ability, even when he doesn’t have his stuff, even when he doesn’t have location or the crispness or anything like that, he grinds through and makes sure he continues to put us in a chance to win the game. And he kept it to one run. This is a testament to his ability to mitigate the danger.”
Cease is 8-2 during the stretch. He has won his last five starts, a career-best streak. The Sox are 17-5 in his starts this season and 37-47 otherwise.
“What he’s doing right now is really good, and he shows everybody that he’s competing right now and it’s good to be on his side,” Sox left fielder Eloy Jiménez said after Friday’s game.
Jiménez hit a go-ahead solo homer in the fourth inning Friday. He has homered in 10 of Cease’s starts (12 total) over his career, and the Sox are 9-1 in those games. Jiménez and Cease were acquired from the Cubs as part of a 2017 trade for José Quintana.
Cease, who is in his fourth season, is one win shy of matching his career high for a season (13 in 2021). His 4.1 WAR is tops among pitchers in the American League, according to Baseball Reference.
“I’m really happy with where I’m at,” Cease said Tuesday. “I’m never really content. It’s always a process, but this is about as good as I could have drawn it up so far.”
Reynaldo López nears return from IL
Reliever Reynaldo López anticipates returning from the injured list for Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Royals in Kansas City, Mo.
López, who has been on the IL since July 25 with a lower back strain, pitched a simulated game Saturday at Globe Life Field, facing Tim Anderson and Gavin Sheets. He said he threw 20 or 21 pitches.
“I feel good,” López said through an interpreter. “No soreness, no pain. That was the most important thing: that I felt 100%.”