Column: Tonight’s Dylan Cease-Justin Verlander matchup brings us again to a time when ace starters dominated baseball


Dylan Cease admitted Monday he typically thinks about his possibilities of profitable the American League Cy Young Award throughout his breakout season.

Chalk it as much as the enjoyment of youth?

“Old guys think about it too,” Justin Verlander mentioned with amusing. “It’s very natural.”

Cease, the 26-year-old Chicago White Sox ace, faces Verlander, the 39-year-old Cy Young favourite, on Tuesday night time at Guaranteed Rate Field within the second sport of a key collection between the Sox and Houston Astros.

Monday’s 4-2, come-from-behind Sox victory was an appetizer for the primary course, and each starters appeared primed for the showdown.

“Two guys having good years, and it’ll be fun,” Verlander mentioned. “I don’t think you get a lot of moments where you get two guys having great years like this matchup. Things have to align, so it’s very exciting.”

The sport has modified a lot over time, with starters getting lifted even after six or seven no-hit innings and front-office executives game-planning the pitching strikes with the supervisor hours earlier than the primary pitch.

Whether it’s higher or worse for the sport is within the eye of the beholder. To a few of us dinosaurs, turning the sport over to nameless relievers is rarely as enjoyable as watching two dominant pitchers making an attempt to outduel one another for 9 innings, even when their stuff isn’t fairly nearly as good because it was the primary time by means of the order.

But that’s irrelevant now. Baseball by no means will return to the times when a starter throwing nicely wouldn’t hand over the ball until it was pried out of his hand. Analytics have turned managers into drones. “Five and dive” has been changed with “five and survive.”

All we are able to do is admire the uncommon events when two dominant starters go head-to-head in a regular-season sport — and hope the managers perceive that is leisure. Many followers wish to see which pitcher comes out on prime, not which one offers his workforce an opportunity to win with 85 pitches.

Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker are the form of old-school managers one would possibly suppose would give their starters somewhat extra leeway in a marquee matchup akin to Verlander-Cease. We’ll see.

They’re additionally new-school thinkers in the case of making certain their aces are nonetheless wholesome and sturdy come October, so don’t count on a return to the times when pitch counts have been thrown out the window.

Still, Baker is aware of it’s one thing the sport wants.

“I was thinking about it today,” he mentioned. “This is like after I was a child — (Sandy) Koufax and Juan Marichal, or Don Drysdale and Gaylord Perry, Ferguson Jenkins and Bob Gibson. These are basic, basic (matchups). I bear in mind when Don Sutton on our workforce (the Los Angeles Dodgers) was going through Nolan Ryan.

“I’m going to have to really be careful and make sure I don’t spectate and manage. Because if I was at home, I’d get me a bowl of popcorn and some beer and the only time I’d leave would be if there was a commercial or it was between innings because that’s a classic (matchup).”

Baker mentioned the rationale there aren’t extra basic matchups is there have been fewer groups again within the day, and four-man rotations made it likelier that two No. 1s would possibly go head-to-head.

While that’s true, there’s additionally a scarcity of star energy in the case of beginning pitchers. There are many well-paid starters however few must-see pitchers like Verlander, Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw.

Cease could also be on his means — as evidenced by his file streak of 14 consecutive begins permitting one or no earned runs — however he’ll must show himself for just a few extra years to succeed in that standing.

Can he think about himself pitching at Verlander’s age?

“I haven’t even thought about it,” he mentioned. “It’s hard to fathom, but I guess he and Scherzer are showing that if you take care of yourself, there’s no reason why your (velocity) or anything has to dip. Guys like that are making it easier to picture for sure.”

Cease revealed himself Monday to be the Sox’s poet laureate. He unveiled a poem he wrote about his slider known as “O Slider Slide” and had the workforce distribute T-shirts with the verses on the again. A sampling:

“O slider slide o’ slider slide.

“In the strike zone indeed a win is implied.”

Well, Dylan Thomas needed to begin someplace, and he in all probability couldn’t even throw a slider. You have to offer Cease credit score for placing himself on the market.

Matchup apart, it is a enormous collection for the Sox, who have been taken aside by these similar Astros in October within the AL Division Series and have but to get better.

Baker pointed to the Sox accidents, saying, “It’s not the uniform, it’s the person in the uniform.”

“If I’m playing my first team against your second team, over the long run I’m going to win most of the time and you’re going to lose most of the time,” he mentioned.

The Sox greeted the Astros by taking part in “Bang the Drum All Day” through the introduction of the Houston lineup, a shot at their sign-stealing previous. The Astros responded by hitting Sox starter Johnny Cueto laborious in a two-run first inning, aided by a Josh Harrison error.

Cueto settled down and didn’t hand over one other run by means of the eighth, permitting the Sox to rally with 4 runs within the backside of the eighth.

Maybe the scoreboard guys ought to’ve performed “Golden Slumbers” for the Sox, who’ve been asleep on the wheel a lot of the season. The Astros, in the meantime, haven’t had any issues getting up for video games, even with a large lead within the AL West.

“We expect guys to be their best version of themselves, and we all hold each other accountable,” Verlander mentioned.

Baker mentioned to not depend the Sox out.

“They’re in a good division to be where they are,” he mentioned. “I remember when Tony La Russa won 83 games and won the World Series (with the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals).”

So does La Russa.

“I know he does,” Baker mentioned. “You just want to get in the dance. Our job is to stop them from getting in the dance.”

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