Dylan Cease was one out away from history last week against the Minnesota Twins before Luis Arraez spoiled his no-hit bid.
“It took me a couple hours to get over it,” the Chicago White Sox starter said Thursday. “And then I was ready to get on to the next one.”
That next one was Thursday against the Oakland Athletics. While the drama of a no-hitter disappeared in the first inning with a single by Seth Brown, Cease once again was on his game in a 14-2 victory at the Oakland Coliseum.
The right-hander allowed three hits and struck out nine while walking two in six scoreless innings.
“That’s what you’re going to see every time he goes out there,” Sox acting manager Miguel Cairo said after the win. “He goes after the hitters.”
Before the game, Cairo said of Cease: “Every time that he pitches, we have a chance to win a ball game.”
Coming off the Sept. 3 one-hitter, Cease looked at Thursday as “business as usual.”
Business has been very good for Cease, who is in contention for the American League Cy Young Award.
He is 14-6 with a 2.06 ERA and entered Friday ranked first in in the major leagues in opponents average (.184), second in ERA and third in strikeouts per nine innings (11.44) and strikeouts (206).
Cease’s season included a stretch of 14 consecutive starts from May 29 to Aug. 11 in which he allowed one earned run or none, becoming the first starter (non-opener) since 1913 to accomplish the feat.
“He’s definitely proven (himself) time after time, the big moment he’s handling,” pitching coach Ethan Katz said Sunday. “And he has stepped up all season for us and he’s continued to lead this team and the staff in helping us win a lot of games.
“There’s a lot of things he’s learned over the course of the last two years, and he’s been able to handle bigger moments and been able to slow the game down. It’s nice to see. He’s really developing nicely.”
Cease has a 1.17 ERA in his last 19 starts.
“It’s exciting … I still see some steps for him in his development,” Katz said. “It’s great to see. He works extremely hard at his craft, and he’s growing and still evolving and hopefully we’ll see even better Dylan Ceases as time goes on.”
Cease continued his road success Thursday, improving to 8-3 with a 1.63 ERA in 13 road starts.
His third strikeout Thursday, Cristian Pache to end the second, was Cease’s 200th of the season. First baseman José Abreu playfully faked throwing the keepsake in the stands after catcher Seby Zavala tossed it to him.
“I’ve seen (Abreu) do it before,” Cease said. “It’s pretty funny.”
It’s Cease’s second straight season with at least 200 strikeouts. He’s the seventh pitcher in franchise history with multiple 200-strikeout seasons, joining Ed Walsh (5), Chris Sale (4), Lucas Giolito (2), Javier Vázquez (2), Tom Bradley (2) and Gary Peters (2), according to the Sox.
“It means I’m taking the ball, it’s definitely a big accomplishment and something I’m proud of,” Cease said.
The Sox gave Cease an early lead with back-to-back homers in the first by Elvis Andrus and Yoán Moncada.
Cease said his focus was following that with a shutdown inning.
“It’s very important,” Cease said. “Those are big momentum-type innings. It’s important not to let them claw their way back in.”
The lead ballooned to 14-0 with a second Moncada homer (three-run), a two-run homer by Eloy Jiménez and a three-run homer by Romy Gonzalez. The five homers matched the most for the Sox at the Coliseum, first accomplished Sept. 27, 1981, with two homers by Carlton Fisk, and one each from Harold Baines, Chet Lemon and Wayne Nordhagen.
As the advantage kept increasing, Cease’s mindset remained the same.
“I’m still treating it like it’s 0-0,” Cease said. “I never really step off the gas.”
Cease is zeroed in on doing what he can during the team’s push for a playoff spot.
“We know every game, every inning, every pitch matters right now,” he said.