Stacking lineups with left-handed batters and contact hitters.
Attacking pitches early in counts.
That’s all good for Dylan Cease as White Sox opponents try to combat his knee-buckling slider and 98-mph fastball with those tactics.
“It just brings more creativity from our standpoint of talking about what’s the best route to go about this, how can we be efficient, and still win counts and get outs,” pitching coach Ethan Katz said Sunday, one day after Cease came within one out of a no-hitter but still completed a 103-pitch shutout against the Twins.
In the last two months, the Orioles, Indians and Twins have attempted to attack Cease earlier in the count. But Cease has countered with more first-pitch strikes. He needed only 50 pitches to complete the first five innings Saturday. He managed to dominate despite not getting his first strikeout until the final out of the fifth and still finished with seven strikeouts.
Cease’s season-high pitch count was 110 in a loss to the Dodgers on June 9, but he lasted only 4‰ innings. Cease has steadily been more economical since that game. Katz declined to disclose details of their strategy, but throwing first-pitch strikes with more frequency hasn’t hurt him.
In fact, there was no serious thought of walking American League batting leader Luis Arraez with two out in the ninth before Arraez snapped the no-hit bid with a clean single to right center on a 1-1 slider.
Katz said he told catcher Seby Zavala “if Arraez walks on our terms, that’s fine.”
“He was trying to make the best pitch possible to get him out, and he hit the best pitch, kudos to him,” Katz said. “But I’ll take a win like that all day.”
Acting manager Miguel Cairo added there was “no chance” he was going to instruct Arraez to be walked.
“It’s what you want to see,” Cairo said. “Two guys competing, a pitcher and a hitter. It was nice.”
Cease generated 14 swings and misses, including nine on sliders.
Comeback for Kopech?
Michael Kopech is “ready to roll” after throwing two bullpen sessions, Katz said.
The Sox haven’t named a starter for Wednesday’s series finale at Seattle. Cairo hopes that Kopech, who is recovering from left knee soreness, will rejoin the rotation during their seven-game trip.
Kopech hasn’t pitched since Aug. 22, but Katz believes the injury might have been a blessing in disguise since Kopech has thrown a career-high 110‰ innings in his first season as a full-time starter.
This and that
Award-winning Puerto Rican entertainer Daddy Yankee met Cairo and players from the Sox and Twins before the game.
— Twins starter Dylan Bundy improved to 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA in his last four starts against the Sox.