Dylan Cease finished the second inning by striking out Nelson Velázquez and Nick Loftin.
He began the third by striking out Drew Waters and Nick Pratto.
Cease had one of his better starts of the season’s second half, helping the Chicago White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals, 6-2, in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Cease allowed one run on four hits with eight strikeouts and one walk in 5 1/3 innings.
“Today was solid,” Cease said. “I thought I commanded the ball pretty well, mixed it up good and the defense and offense played well. It was a good game.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of work to make adjustments and I haven’t really seen a lot of results yet. But today is a step in the right direction.”
The Sox staged an epic rally in Game 2, tying it after falling in a nine-run hole. But they couldn’t pull off the victory, losing 11-10.
The Sox scored eight in the sixth /inning to tie the game. But the Royals’ Maikel Garcia drove in the go-ahead run with a single in the seventh and the Sox had to settle for a doubleheader split.
“We just got good pitches to hit,” manager Pedro Grifol said of the sixth. “Some of that stuff becomes contagious. It was just at-bat after at-bat. It was a really good inning for us. But those are the games we’ve got to close out. One way or the other, we’ve got to close those games out.”
Game 2 was filled with offense. The opener had strong pitching, led by Cease.
It was his second time facing the Royals in the last week. He allowed four earned runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts and two walks on Sept. 5 at Kauffman Stadium.
Cease allowed three solo home runs in that game. He fared much better Tuesday.
“You’ve just got to mix it up to make sure you don’t do the same thing you did (the) previous start,” Cease said of facing a team in consecutive starts. “As always, it’s just executing quality pitches.”
Cease received plenty of run support early as the first five Sox batters reached base and scored against Royals starter Brady Singer.
“That’s huge, especially when you have a guy like Dylan Cease throwing the ball,” said right fielder Gavin Sheets, who went 1-for-3 with two RBIs.
Tim Anderson began the first with a single. Andrew Benintendi and Luis Robert Jr. walked.
Eloy Jiménez reached on an infield hit to third, with Anderson scoring. Yoán Moncada followed with an RBI single that got past Royals second baseman Nick Loftin.
Sheets drove in two with a one-out single to center. Sheets is expected to get a chunk of the playing time in right field after the Sox optioned Oscar Colás to Triple-A Charlotte on Monday.
“I’m excited for the opportunity,” Sheets said. “Obviously I want to play. I want to be in there every day. I’m excited for the opportunity to get back out there. Sometimes you take it for granted and you really miss it. To get back out there and be playing is a lot of fun for me.”
The team’s final run of the inning came when Elvis Andrus collected an RBI on a fielder’s choice. The Sox second baseman had two hits and two RBIs.
“Anytime you get a lead like that, it makes things simpler and easier,” Cease said.
As big as the first inning was for the team, Grifol said Cease’s performance in the top of the second was also vital.
“It was important for (Cease) to come out and get 1-2-3, which he did, and kind of keep the momentum on our side,” Grifol said.
The only run Cease (7-7) allowed came on a two-out RBI double by Edward Olivares in the fourth. Cease prevented any more damage by striking out Velázquez to end the inning.
It was perhaps Cease’s most effective outing since Aug. 7, when he allowed one hit while striking out seven and walking none in 5 1/3 scoreless innings against the New York Yankees.
“The stuff is the same (from the past), fastball’s still up there at 97 (mph), breaking balls are good,” Grifol said. “Obviously, we want him to get quicker outs. I’m sure he does, too, so he can stay in the game a little longer. But when you’ve got a high strikeout guy like he is, you’re going to hit high pitch counts (102 pitches Tuesday).
“That’s something we’ll continue to work on, he’ll continue to work on. He’s young. We’re going to figure this thing out and he’s going to be a good one for a long time.”
The Sox had the big first inning in Game 1. The Royals had the offensive explosion early in the second game, scoring four in the first and four more in the second against Sox starter Touki Toussaint.
The Sox trailed 9-0 after three innings. They got a solo home run by Jiménez in the fifth and followed it with the eight-run sixth to pull even.
The tie didn’t last long as the Royals scored the next inning against Deivi García and added one more in the ninth against Michael Kopech. The Sox scored once in the ninth and had the winning run at the plate. But Carlos Hernández got Jiménez to ground into a force out to end the game.
“Our guys battled,” Grifol said. “They had some good at-bats in that inning. It was a tough one to lose because we came back and fought hard, but we’ve just got to get back after it tomorrow.”