Dylan Cease was fired up as he walked off the mound after the eighth inning Saturday against the Minnesota Twins.
“I was excited,” the Chicago White Sox right-hander said. “I was three away. I was ready to give everything I got.”
Cease has been nearly unhittable at times this season while putting himself in contention for the American League Cy Young Award.
He flirted with history Saturday night, losing a no-hit bid with two outs in the ninth inning in a 13-0 rout of the Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The crowd of 31,655 stood and cheered as the top of the ninth began. Cease began the inning by striking out Caleb Hamilton. Gilberto Celestino filed out to center fielder Adam Engel.
But Luis Arraez, who leads the American League in batting average, singled to right-center on a 1-1 pitch for the Twins’ first hit.
“I had a pretty good idea (it was a hit off the bat), for sure,” Cease said. “(My mindset was) on to the next one. Obviously it’s disappointing but that’s the game.”
Cease went back to work and struck out Kyle Garlick for a one-hit shutout. He finished with seven strikeouts and two walks, falling just short of becoming the 21st White Sox pitcher to toss a no-hitter.
“Dylan pitched one hell of a game and it was fun to be a part of it,” said Sox catcher Seby Zavala, who added he started thinking no-hitter in the third inning. “He’s always got a chance to throw a no-hitter, and it just felt different (Saturday) getting warmed. It just felt like something was in the air.”
The outing was as important as it was impressive.
The third-place Sox won their fourth straight and gained ground in the American League Central. They trail the second-place Twins by one game and the division-leading Cleveland Guardians by two.
“Its huge,” Cease said. “We’re fighting for this division and this shows how much fight we still have left. We just got to keep it rolling.”
Before the single, the only Twins to reach base came via walks. Jake Cave did so leading off the third but was erased when Gary Sánchez grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.
Cease walked Celestino with two outs in the sixth but got Arraez to strike out looking to end the inning.
“I didn’t have my sharpest stuff early,” Cease said. “And then once I got to the fifth, I started to have a better feel and then I really emptied the tank.”
In the seventh, Cease struck out Garlick and Jermaine Palacios and got Jose Miranda to fly out to right field.
Cease began the eighth striking out Nick Gordon. He made a nice play to field a comebacker by Gio Urshela and got Cave to line out to first baseman José Abreu.
“I think their plan was to get to me early and not get to two strikes,” Cease said. “It helped me keep my pitch count down, for sure.”
Cease, 26, threw 103 pitches in the terrific outing, improving to 13-6.
“It was amazing,” Sox second baseman Romy Gonzalez said. “The pace was incredible. He was pounding the zone with all of his pitches. It was very fun to watch.”
Cease entered Saturday leading the major leagues in strikeouts per nine innings (11.63) and was third in ERA (2.27), fourth in opponents average (.193) and tied for fourth in strikeouts (190).
“He’s been doing that the whole year,” Sox acting manager Miguel Cairo said. “He’s been attacking the strike zone. He has a nasty slider. His fastball has some life and he was throwing strikes and getting ahead and putting people away. That’s him. He’s been outstanding.”
His remarkable season included a stretch of 14 consecutive start from May 29-Aug. 11 in which he allowed one earned run or none, becoming the first starter (non-opener) since 1913 to accomplish the feat.
“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. He goes out there and throws six, seven innings every time. He’s been outstanding.”
Cease received offensive support with a four-run first, capped by Eloy Jiménez’s three-run homer. Gonzalez added a three-run blast, the first home run of his major-league career, in the fourth.
“Just trying to make contact, honestly,” Gonzalez said. “(Aaron Sanchez) just hung one, I put a good swing on it. Very, very happy to get that one out of the way.”
The Sox added six runs in the eighth, including a grand slam by Elvis Andrus against the position player Gordon.
When the inning ended, the lively crowd buzzed with excitement as Cease made his way back on the mound.
Cease said this is the closest he’s come to throwing a no-hitter.
“It would have meant a lot,” Cease said. “It’s an incredibly difficult feat to achieve. It definitely would have meant a lot.”
Fans chanted “Cease, Cease, Cease” when the game concluded.
He is glad that the performance helped the team remain going in the right direction.
“We know it’s crunch time right now,” Cease said. “It’s time to bring out the focus and as much intensity as we can. We’ve definitely been locked in.”