MINNEAPOLIS — Dylan Cease didn’t need any extra motivation this week.
The Chicago White Sox starter has pitched well enough to be an All-Star. He wasn’t on the list when pitchers were announced last Sunday.. And then she went back to work with two more stellar outings before the break.
He was in top form Sunday, allowing one hit, striking out eight and walking two in seven innings in an 11-0 win over the Minnesota Twins in front of 23,225 at Target Field.
“I want to win,” Cease said. “I don’t need any extra motivation. Definitely not hard to find these days.”
Cease and relievers Joe Kelly and Jose Ruiz combined for one hit, helping the Sox win three of four in a major division series.
“Dylan, he was the horse we rode,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “He was doing it efficiently and he could have thrown longer, but we stopped in the seventh. What he has done all year. He has picked us up at important moments. This was an important one.”
Yoán Moncada (two runs) and Andrew Vaughn hit back-to-back homers in the seventh and Josh Harrison hit a three-run homer later in the inning as the Sox (46-46) gained ground in the AL Central. They trail the Twins (50-44) in first place by three games and the Cleveland Guardians (46-44) by one.
“We’re chasing them down the standings right now,” Cease said. “It was important to make a statement and show that we are still here. I think it’s going to be a good second half.”
For most of the four days at Target Field, the Sox looked like the team many expected to see this season. They outscored the Twins 32-10 in the series. They had 16 hits on Sunday and 50 in the four games.
“I know the team understands what we accomplished in the last 18 games (11-7 in 17 days),” La Russa said. “Everyone, including the fans, can decide for themselves if it’s awesome or whatever. But I know you know how hard they had to work to get that record and get back to .500.
“They need the days off and we’ll be ready on Friday.”
He stopped setting the tone, keeping the Twins hitless until Alex Kirilloff singled to left field with one out in the fifth. He went 5⅔ scoreless innings in Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader at Cleveland, that the Sox won 7-0.
He improved to 9-4 while lowering his ERA to 2.15. He is third in the American League in ERA and leads the majors with 150 strikeouts. He has 501 career strikeouts of his own, reaching 500 faster (401⅔ innings) than any pitcher in Sox history, surpassing Chris Sale (472⅓), according to Elias.
“It’s been unbelievable for us,” Sox designated hitter Jose Abreu said through an interpreter. “Outstanding. All the emphasis and effort to improve every start. That has been beneficial for us.
“I don’t know how he’s not in the All-Star Game. She is crazy.”
Shortstop Tim Anderson and closer Liam Hendriks will represent the team at the All-Star Game Tuesday at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The Red Sox took the lead on Sunday with a two-out rally in the fifth with Anderson playing a big role.
Seby Zavala walked and Adam Engel singled to left field. Both advanced a base when left fielder Nick Gordon didn’t field Engel’s hit cleanly, giving the Sox runners on second and third.
Anderson drove them in with a single to right on a 1-2 pitch from Chris Archer. Moncada doubled and Vaughn followed it up with a two-run double off reliever Tyler Duffey, making it 4-0.
The Sox opened the game with six runs in the seventh. Moncada’s two-run homer to center field against Joe Smith was 437 feet. Vaughn followed with a home run to left field.
Harrison made it 0-10 with a three-run homer later in the inning.
“If you can produce one through nine, which we can do, it’s unstoppable,” said Vaughn, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs on Sunday and 9-for-17 with nine RBIs in the series. “It’s a special feat and we have to keep going.”
The Red Sox head into the All-Star break having won five of their last six games. They return Friday with four games in three days against the Guardians at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“We have to value the effort that everyone has made to win games,” Abreu said. “As the statistics say, we are improving and that is good. Coming into the All-Star break, everyone deserves a good rest and then come back with some intensity.”