A day after celebrating their first division title in 13 years, the last thing the White Sox needed was a buzzkill.
It came in the form of righthanded Dylan Cease who was hit on the pitching arm by a hard ball at Progressive Field on Friday in a 1-0 win over the Indians. Cease was outstanding, throwing 5 innings of a three-hit ball with nine strikeouts before Bradley Zimmer’s 110 mph one-hopper hit him on the right triceps, too close to his elbow for comfort. After watching Cease take three warm-up throws, manager Tony La Russa did as he expected and took the ball from a man he will need in the coming post-season. X-rays were negative, and cessation is day by day.
We took a real break, said La Russa. It hit him in part of the muscle, not sure if it hit the elbow. He felt good to throw. But I said, you can be mad at me, but it’s not worth the risk.
Cease (13-7, 3.95 ERA) threw 82 pitches, 50 for strikes. His breaking ball was big and clear, his substitution was well placed and he had 17 swinging strokes. His 221 strikeouts are the ninth-highest for a Sox pitcher in a season.
But he knew coming out was the right thing to do. His arm felt heavy.
It was clear I wasn’t going to finish it, Cease said. Nice little bruise. It feels good now. I don’t expect to miss any time. I want to make one start for the post season.
Cease, who falls to the left of the mound after his pitch, was standing with his back to the ball when he was hit. Ryan Burr replaced Cease and Aaron Bummer, Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks completed the shutout. Kimbrel had his best inning in a Sox-uniform, striking out 13 pitches.
Luis Robert’s home run against Trevor Stephan was all it took.
With seven games left in the regular season, the Sox can’t afford to lose Cease as they prepare for the postseason. Left-handed Carlos Rodon is struggling with shoulder pain and Lucas Giolito (hamstring) and Lance Lynn (knee) are working their way back after stints on the injured list.
The Sox (87-67) won the American League Central on Thursday and after celebrating, went up nine and down nine to open the game. Blame it on the party the night before or blame it on former Cy Young winner Shane Bieber, the most likely culprit.
Anyway, the Sox had their fun after making the division.
It’s going to be interesting to see today, La Russa said before the game. I mean, they celebrated hard, well deserved, well into the morning.
If a video of popping champagne corks and bubbles in the visitor’s clubhouse was any indication, no one doubts it. And those were just the first sips, sprays and primal screams.
But they’re all playing, La Russa said. Look how much energy they have. I know they want to be there.
The importance of playing well in the postseason is up for debate, but it’s worth noting that it’s hovered around .500 since the All-Star break, going 14-12 in the last 26 games. Whether it matters or not, La Russa wants to see an improved level of play in the last seven games.
When your magic number comes in single digits, you get really serious, he said. We’ve been in some numbers for a while, and there are times when you can see the effort to really focus. But it is a challenge that the staff has made? [the players].
Cease said the Sox were back at work Friday.
We had a good time last night, Cease said, but at the end of the day, it’s just the beginning. We didn’t come here to win the AL Championship, we came here to win a World Series. Were all pretty locked up for what was to come next.
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