White Sox

Chris Sale sets franchise record but White Sox get shut out by Royals

Chris Sale sets franchise record but White Sox get shut out by Royals

Chris Sale set a new franchise record on Sunday afternoon by becoming the first White Sox pitcher to have 200-plus strikeouts in four consecutive seasons, but the White Sox offense had only two hits in their 2-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals at U.S. Cellular Field in front of 20,107.

The White Sox ace fanned 12 more batters, increasing his strikeout total to 205 this season. Max Scherzer is the only other pitcher with 200-plus strikeouts in each of his last four seasons, according to CSN stats guru Chris Kamka.

Sale enjoys the accomplishment, but his mind is taking him somewhere else.

"I don't want to act like it's not cool or like I'm unappreciative of it, but there's not a single part of me that wouldn't give all that to be in the playoffs four years in a row," he said.

It was Sale’s 34th career game with 10-plus strikeouts, also a team record. He has twice as many than Ed Walsh, who is second on the list with 17, according to Kamka.

Sale believes that this is the strongest he's ever been at this time of year.

"I feel good. There was a lot of work that went into that, not only by myself but people I'm surrounded by," Sale said. "It starts in the offseason and then gets into spring training. I like where we're at right now, the way my body's feeling and how it's reacting. You just try to keep riding it out."

Sale pitched eight solid innings and allowed two runs – both solo homers – on eight hits and one walk. Homers came from Kendrys Morales in the second and Eric Hosmer in the sixth. Hosmer’s home run was the third of his career off Sale, the most the White Sox southpaw has allowed by a left-hander.

The White Sox are 2-8 in Sale’s 10 starts since the All-Star break despite nine being quality starts. Sunday’s outing lowered his overall ERA to 3.03 on the season.

With three or four starts remaining, manager Robin Ventura thinks Sale still has a shot to win the American League Cy Young Award. As for Sale, he's not really thinking about it.

"Like I said before, I let all that stuff work itself out," Sale said. "I go up there and I pitch for this team, and I pitch for my teammates and the fans and myself. Anything other than that, I don't worry about it."

Sale (15-8) pitched himself out of a couple big jams in the fifth and seventh. He allowed the first two batters to get on in the fifth, but struck out the next three to escape the inning unscathed. Again in the seventh, Sale gave up a single and a double to lead off the inning. But he struck out the next batter and forced a double play to end the inning.

"He gets in a jam he can strike people out," Ventura said. "I think that’s where he reaches for a little bit more and goes after. I think his slider is sharper at that point. He’s learned to kind of pace himself and go along but he always has the ability to strike people out. That’s what makes him dangerous, that’s what makes him good.

"For him to wiggle himself out of it, he doesn’t need anybody else to help him with that. He can do it."

The White Sox offense didn’t do him any favors, either.

Their only two hits of the afternoon came from Adam Eaton – in the first and ninth inning. The White Sox bats were shut down for a majority of the game.

"(Royals starter Ian Kennedy) was working the corners really well," Eaton said. "Working the corners, doing what he does. He sinks it, he cuts it and he's got a good curveball. That kept us off-balance today. That's no excuse. Sale goes out and pitches a heck of a game, does what he does, we need to scrap across a few runs.

"We've been swinging the bats well, though. Not to say that one day out of five we can falter. With that being said, we've got to do better for Sale."

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The team's best chance came in the third inning, where the White Sox failed to capitalize with the bases loaded after three batters reached on walks.

The White Sox stand at 68-74 on the season and are on the verge of their fourth consecutive losing season.

With the offseason approaching, it's uncertain what the future holds for Sale and the White Sox. If it were up to him, he'd like to stay here in Chicago.

"That will shake out on its own," Sale said. "I wear this uniform with a lot of pride, and I hope I can continue to do that."

Sale is in the prime of his career and continues to be more dominant as time passes. But even at 27 years old, Sale believes his best days are still ahead of him.

"I'm a very competitive person," Sale said. "I enjoy competing against other people but against myself, as well. Every year, it doesn't matter who you are, you could be the best of the best or the worst of the worst, and you still want to be better.

"You look at a guy over in L.A. with (Clayton) Kershaw, you think you've seen it all, and he just gets better. You take after that and you watch people around you and you just keep working hard and try to be better every time out no matter what the result last time was."

Less heralded than prospects White Sox acquired with them, it's Dylan Cease and Luis Basabe starring in Futures Game

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USA TODAY

Less heralded than prospects White Sox acquired with them, it's Dylan Cease and Luis Basabe starring in Futures Game

WASHINGTON, D.C. — You don’t need to be a headliner of one of the White Sox major trades to make an impact on the ongoing rebuilding effort.

The White Sox two representatives at Sunday’s Futures Game had one very big thing in common: Neither was the most talked-about player in the trades that brought them into the organization.

Luis Alexander Basabe was the No. 3 piece in the Chris Sale deal, overshadowed by Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech. Dylan Cease was the No. 2 player in the Jose Quintana trade, overshadowed by Eloy Jimenez.

But as their selections to the Futures Game show, these guys weren’t just throw-ins. Cease is having a sensational season, the best campaign of any of the White Sox highest-rated pitching prospects. Basabe had a hot start to the season and showed his potential with a two-run homer on a 102 mph pitch in the third inning Sunday.

Rick Hahn’s talked all during this rebuild about his desire to make the White Sox farm system as deep as possible. Moncada, Kopech and Jimenez brought star power to the rebuild. Cease and Basabe have helped bring the depth.

“I love the fact that Dylan and Basabe are the two down there at the Futures Game, in part because — through no fault of their own — in their own transactions, publicly, they got a little bit overshadowed by the headliners, so to speak, in those deals,” Hahn said last week. “But the Quintana trade doesn’t happen without Dylan Cease being part of it. He was a very important part of that for us, and we’re thrilled to see him getting some recognition for his ability and his accomplishments, and the Futures Game honor is very fitting.

“Basabe, obviously, was overshadowed in the Sale trade by Moncada and Kopech, and they’re bigger names, but our scouts felt very strongly about his upside and what his tool set presented. And you saw it at Winston-Salem, the way he was able to perform at an All-Star level there.

“It’s nice to see guys who might not be at the top of mind for people when they think of our system being recognized in that way and certainly for those two guys, who were important parts of big trades for us but perhaps not perceived previously to the recognition they deserve.”

Until recently, Cease has been the fourth name mentioned when discussing the White Sox fleet of starting-pitching prospects, behind Kopech, Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning. And that’s typically after mentioning guys already in the majors like Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. But Cease has certainly moved to the front of that conversation with his big 2018.

Basabe is still buried, in conversation, behind Jimenez, Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo. Blake Rutherford is ranked ahead of him, too. But he’s shown himself worthy of consideration for a spot in the White Sox future plans. His performance at the Futures Game will keep him in that discussion.

Down in the minors, these guys are going about their business. And as headlining names like Jimenez and Kopech have either dealt with injuries or gone through struggles, “under the radar” guys like Cease and Basabe have produced.

Of course, the descriptors of “headliner” and “under the radar” don’t mean much to them.

“Eloy Jimenez is such a good player. That’s nothing, necessarily, against me, it just happens to be the way it is,” Cease said Sunday. “With Basabe, Kopech and Moncada are really studs, too. You’ve just got to be grateful for the opportunity you have. That doesn’t upset me by any means.”

Projecting lineups and depth charts of the future has become one of the favorite pastimes on the South Side during this rebuilding period. And while it’s easy to pick the highest-rated guys for the starting spots, rebuilds have a way of surprising. And maybe the emergence of guys like Cease and Basabe count as the surprises that awaited the White Sox effort.

Getting to the big leagues is obviously the end goal, and starring in the big leagues would mean usurping the projected place of one of the more-heralded prospects ahead of them. That’s not how Cease is looking at it, though, just sticking to that old baseball axiom of controlling what he can control.

Which is really the only way to get to where he and all these prospects want to be.

“It’s easy to dream on it,” Cease said of getting to the major league level. “It’s just that baseball’s such a difficult game that if you take your focus away from what you’re doing right now, it’s very easy to snowball away. So you can sit and dream about it, but you’ve got to do it and let it happen.”

Futures Game pitcher Dylan Cease on loaded White Sox farm system: 'There's so much talent that you almost take it for granted'

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USA TODAY

Futures Game pitcher Dylan Cease on loaded White Sox farm system: 'There's so much talent that you almost take it for granted'

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A couple weeks ago, Dylan Cease was sitting in the stands charting pitches during a Birmingham Barons game when White Sox director of player development Chris Getz came over and said, “I just want to let you know …”

Inside his head, Cease immediately had a flashback to last July and the time the Cubs informed him he’d been dealt to the White Sox in the Jose Quintana trade.

“Did I just get traded again?” Cease thought to himself.

Fortunately, that’s not what this conversation was about.

“And then (Getz) said, ‘You’re going to the Futures Game,’ and I was kind of speechless and I just said thank you,” Cease recalled.

Playing in this All-Star showcase with some of the best prospects in baseball had been a goal for Cease ever since he started watching the game as a kid.

Now one of the best young pitchers in the minor leagues, Cease has even bigger plans for his baseball career, like reaching the big leagues and dominating there like he has since coming over from the Cubs.

At Class A Winston-Salem, Cease went 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA. Since getting called up to Double-A Birmingham, he’s 1-0 with a 3.24 ERA in three starts, but he’s given up only one earned run in his last two games.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn says that Cease has developed at such a rate that he’s exceeded their expectations this year. Cease might feel the same way.

“In terms of growth, which is really what the minor leagues is for, I came into the year not that confident with some of my off-speed (pitches),” Cease said. “And now I feel like I can throw anything at any time, so I’m really happy with the progress.”

Ask coaches, teammates and scouts about Cease, and they always point to two things: his velocity (which frequently hits 98 and 99) and his composure.

The velocity is a God-given gift. The composure is something he’s picked up along the way.

“I’ve been watching the best pitchers in baseball since I was a little kid. You see how most of them act, guys like Corey Kluber and Justin Verlander, who whether they’re up five or down five you’d never know,” Cease explained. “To me, that’s the most intimidating thing when a guy looks like he’s just going to take care of business and give everything he’s got. I try to be the same way.”

The trades of Quintana, Chris Sale and Adam Eaton kickstarted the White Sox rebuild. Add in some strong drafts, and the minor league system is currently stacked.

Cease knows first-hand.

“There’s so much talent that you almost take it for granted when you play with them everyday, there’s that much talent,” Cease said.

Who stands out?

“Joel Booker is the most underrated guy we have. Micker Adolfo, when that dude connects with a baseball it sounds like a shotgun is going off the bat.”

White Sox prospect Luis Basabe said before the game that he wanted to hit a homer in the Futures Game off Cease, his Barons teammate.

When I told this to Cease, he first responded like a good teammate, but by the end of his answer the competitor in him took over.

“That would be sick. I’m rooting for (Basabe). I want him to do well, if he gets it off me, I’m going to tip my cap. But I guarantee it’s not going to happen,” Cease said.

Instead, Basabe crushed a two-run homer off Reds prospect Hunter Greene deep into the right-field seats. The speed of the pitch was 102 mph.

This game might have been about the future, and at some point White Sox fans will be cheering for Cease and Basabe in Chicago. But until then, two of the White Sox best prospects are on a big stage here in the present. They know that eventually their time will come.