CHICAGO — The American League’s Cy Young race probably didn’t change much Tuesday, as Houston Astros ace. Justin Verlander and his main competitor for the honor – Chicago White Sox righty Dylan Stop it — each gave up three runs in the White Sox’s eventual 4-3 win.
“I was disappointed,” Cease said despite the team win. “It wasn’t my sharpest outing but [the game] was close enough to keep us in it, then everyone else took me.”
For the second night in a row, White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada drove in the winning run with an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth.
Neither starter was around for a decision in the game. Verlander, 39, lasted seven innings, while Cease, 26, went just five. Cesu gave up three runs on six hits and three walks, the first time in his past 15 outings he has given up more than one earned run.
“Don’t like to give up runs, especially in a situation late like that,” Verlander told reporters. “It wasn’t a terrible pitch [to Sheets]. It was on the inner half, of the plate a little. Usually guys pull that mean. A little frustrated.”
Said Sheets: “First and second, I want to get the ball in the air. My main thought was to get something in the air and get something in the strike zone. I was able to do that.”
The shutout saw his ERA increase for the first time since May 24 — a stretch of 14 starts, the longest by a starting pitcher since 2019. While leading 1-0 in the third, he gave up an RBI double to . Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker; then in the fifth, Jose Altuve hit a solo shot to lead off the inning.
“They’re one of the better lines around,” Cease said. “They had a lot of good at-bats, but at the end of the day, it feels good that we won as a team.”
Seeing Cease and his giant slider for the first time this season, Astros hitters adjusted for the second time through the order. Altuve and Yuli Gurriel laid pitches just short of the zone earning back-to-back walks to open the third inning, then driving in the two runs.
The matchup was just the third since 1969 between two starters with sub-2.00 ERAs. Verlander is the favorite (-175) to win the AL Cy Young Award, according to Caesars Sportsbook, while Cease is the second choice.
If Verlander doesn’t win it, he might still have the White Sox to blame. In two starts against them this season, he gave up 17 hits and 10 runs (7 ER) in 10⅔ innings.
“Both times I faced them, they gave me really good at-bats, pretty much the whole lineup,” he said. “Today was a challenge.”
Verlander and Miami Marlins right Sand Alcantara are now the only two (qualified) pitchers with sub-2.00 ERAs, after Cease saw his rise to 2.09. Verlander’s 1.95 ERA is still first in the AL but is now second to Alcantara (1.92) in all of baseball.
The White Sox won the first two games of their four-game series against Houston, an AL Division Series rematch in October.
One game separates three teams at the top of the AL Central.
“There is no denying that there were many great implications, [and] at the end of the day, it felt like an intense game,” Cease said.