Cease, red-hot White Sox eye sweep of Cubs

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Chicago White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease can’t deny feeling some extra oomph about his first career start against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday afternoon.

The White Sox have won seven straight games and are seeking a second consecutive series sweep, this one against the National League Central leaders in their own ballpark. The matter of Cease’s personal history with the north siders also plays a role, although he somewhat downplays the 2017 trade that sent him from the Cubs to the White Sox.

“They have such a good team and such a good lineup that it’s much more important to do well against them,” Cease said of the Cubs, who drafted him in the sixth round in 2014. “And then if you do well against them, it’s just that much more of, you know, basically saying, ‘Hey, you did your job well. You executed.’

“For me, it’s amplified in that regard, not necessarily because it’s my old team. At the end of the day, they did a lot for me. But I definitely respect them as a team, and it makes me want to pitch as well as I can against them.”

Cease (4-1, 3.16 ERA) will try to stay perfect in August. He has won each of his four starts this month while pitching to a 1.93 ERA.

The White Sox have rolled behind the long ball in compiling their first seven-game winning streak since July 2015. Chicago blasted six home runs in Friday’s series opener and hit five more Saturday to tie a franchise record for the most home runs over a two-game span.

“They’re demolishing baseballs,” White Sox lefty Gio Gonzalez said. “It’s fun to watch.”

Overall, the White Sox have homered 29 times in the past eight games, pushing them into a tie for the majors lead with 54 in 28 games. The Cleveland Indians, who lead the White Sox by one half-game for second place in the American League Central, have 23 home runs in 27 games this season.

First baseman Jose Abreu powered the latest White Sox victory, going 4-for-4 with three home runs and four RBIs Saturday. It was the first three-homer game in the All-Star’s career. Abreu also homered twice Friday, becoming the first player in franchise history with five home runs over a two-game span.

The Cubs have lost seven of 10 since racing to a 13-3 start and placed third baseman Kris Bryant on the 10-day injured list Saturday with a sprained finger on his left hand.

Although Bryant was batting .177 with 20 strikeouts in 16 games, many of the rest of the Cubs’ usual suspects haven’t been clicking while healthy. Among them is second baseman Javier Baez, who is 2-for-6 in the first two games of the series, but hitting just .198.

“I’m trying. I’m trying my best,” Baez said. “Maybe I’m trying to do too much.”

Victor Caratini has three hits in the series, while Willson Contreras’ eighth-inning RBI single Saturday gave him 20 RBIs in 15 career games against the White Sox.

Yu Darvish (4-1, 1.80 ERA) is set to start for the Cubs. He is 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA in four home starts this season and 1-1 with a 4.97 ERA in four career starts against the White Sox.

–Field Level Media

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