Dylan Cease has been the remarkable -exception to an injury-plagued and highly disappointing 2022 White Sox season.
Cease took his performance to a career-high zenith Saturday night, coming within one out of a no-hitter before completing a 13-0 victory over the Twins.
With nearly all of the 31,655 fans at Guaranteed Rate Field standing in anticipation, Cease’s no-hit bid ended when Luis Arraez hit a 1-1 pitch into right-center field for a clean single with two out in the ninth inning.
Cease, 26, put the finishing touches on the first shutout of his career by striking out Kyle Garlick and received a rousing ovation.
“It would have meant a lot,” said Cease, who said he never has thrown a no-hitter. “It’s an incredibly difficult feat to achieve. It definitely would have meant a lot.”
Nevertheless, the Sox (67-66) moved to within two games of the Guardians (68-63) in the American League Central. They have won four consecutive games under acting manager Miguel Cairo while Tony La Russa undergoes a series of health tests in Arizona.
“It’s been a total shift of energy,” second baseman Romy Gonzalez said of the momentum swing this week. “We’re coming in here, and we’re excited. We’re excited to play and compete and play our best brand of baseball, and we showed that [Saturday].”
Cease (13-6) improved his AL Cy Young Award credentials as he lowered his ERA to 2.13. This marked the fifth time he held an -opponent to one hit. He threw seven innings of one-hit ball July 17 at Minnesota.
He became the first Sox pitcher to throw a complete-game one-hitter since Reynaldo Lopez at Cleveland on Sept. 5, 2019.
Cease became the first Sox pitcher to record a complete-game one-hitter while losing his no-hit bid in the ninth since Dennis Lamp on Sept. 25, 1981, at Milwaukee.
“I was shocked first that he didn’t make the All-Star Game, and he should be talked about,” Cairo said. “He’s been very consistent all year-round.”
Cease said he started thinking about a no-hit bid around the fifth or sixth inning. Coincidentally, he didn’t record his first strikeout until whiffing Gio Urshela to end the fifth, and then sharpened his slider to complement his fastball command to finish with seven strikeouts.
Cease needed only 50 pitches through the first five innings.
“Their plan was to get to me early and not get to two strikes,” said Cease, who threw 68 of 103 pitches for strikes. “It helped me keep my pitch count down, for sure.”
Catcher Seby Zavala started thinking about a no-hitter after the third.
“I started counting the outs,” Zavala said. “I felt like we had something going. We were on the same page. I think he shook me maybe once or twice. We had it rolling,”
Until Arraez’s hit, Cease needed little help. Gonzalez made a sliding backhanded stop to retire Gilberto Celestino to end the third.
Eloy Jimenez hit a three-run homer to cap a four-run first off Tyler Mahle, and Gonzalez hit a three-run shot in the fourth off Aaron Sanchez.
The suspense waited in the bottom of the eighth, as Elvis Andrus hit a grand slam during a six-run rally off second baseman Nick Gordon.
“We’re fighting for this division, and obviously this shows how much fight we still have left,” said Cease, who is 7-3 with a 1.21 ERA against AL Central foes.
“We just got to keep it rolling.”