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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Daryl Van Schouwen

White Sox blanked by Rockies, fall four games behind Guardians in AL Central

Luis Robert (88), Elvis Andrus (1) and Andrew Vaughn of the White Sox surround but can’t catch a hit by Ryan McMahon of the Rockies to open the game at Guaranteed Rate Field on September 14, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Getty Images) (Getty)

Instead of saving Dylan Cease for the first-place Guardians Thursday, the White Sox called on their Cy Young contender to take care of the 62-81 Colorado Rockies Wednesday.

“We’re trying to be our best [Wednesday] and we can worry about tomorrow later,” acting manager Miguel Cairo said before the game.

Using Cease felt like overkill but it was nothing but. He gave up three runs in five innings in what felt like a must-win game as the Guardians were streaking to their sixth consecutive win. What had been a rejuvenated Sox offense had eight hits but nothing to show for them against left-hander Kyle Freeland and two relievers in a 3-0 loss.

The Sox (73-70) are four games behind the lead after their hitters went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. It was the kind of loss that was common during the first five months of the season but not lately.

“We didn’t hit. We didn’t get the key hit with men on base,” acting manager Miguel Cairo said.

As buzzkills go, this one left a stinger buried under the skin for a team that had won 10 of 14 games under Cairo. And now it’s on to Cleveland for one game against the streaking Guardians, who are calling up rookie right-hander Hunter Gaddis from Triple-A to start a makeup game Thursday afternoon.

“It’s definitely crunch time,” Cease said.

Or crunched time.

The Sox trail Cleveland by five in the loss column and with three games next week against them at home, they might have to win all four to win the division. The Guardians, who resisted the Sox’ recent surge with one of their own, have the advantage of closing the season with six games at home against the Royals and will likely have the tiebreaker over the Sox.

“They’ve been playing perfect until now,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “If we keep winning series, we know that sooner or later they’re going to crumble, the closer we get. Tomorrow’s going to be a really good game for us to go out there and [make] a statement.”

While Guardians right-hander Triston McKenzie was pushed ahead to start Cleveland’s series opener against the Twins on Friday, the Sox moved Lucas Giolito to face the Tigers Friday to allow Lance Lynn to face the Guardians.

“Lance is one of our horses and has been pitching really well,” Cairo said. “I think that’s the best matchup for them.”

Cease needed 107 pitches to trudge through five innings, allowing six hits and two walks. He struck out eight.

“I was pretty sporadic today,” he said, watching his ERA climb from 2.06 to 2.16 “Definitely wasn’t my sharpest. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make whatever adjustment I needed to make.”

The Sox will need to be sharp to beat the youngest team in the majors in Cleveland, which was considered the third or fourth best team in the division entering the season.

“Those kids, they know how to play the game,” Cairo said. “They play good defense, they pitch, they put the barrel on the ball. They don’t strike out that much so they’re going to be a pain in the butt. They play the game the right way. That’s what we’ve been doing.”

The Sox didn’t play well Wednesday, though, having a fly ball drop between Andrus, Luis Robert and Andrew Vaughn to start the game, making two throwing errors (Andrus and left fielder AJ Pollock) and getting no timely hits.

For what it’s worth, the Sox are 1-2 since manager Tony La Russa received medical clearance to be at games but not in uniform. La Russa was in the clubhouse and watched from a suite.

From his view in the dugout and clubhouse, Cairo sees a team that has some fight left.

They’re going to need it.

“Those guys, they’re not going to give up,” Cairo said. 

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