Dylan Cease allows 1 hit in 7 innings as the Chicago White Sox ‘make a statement’ by taking 3 of 4 vs. the Minnesota Twins

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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 roster when the pitchers were announced last Sunday. And then he went back to work with two more stellar outings before the break.

He was in top form Sunday, allowing one hit while striking out eight and walking two in seven innings in an 11-0 victory against the Minnesota Twins in front of 23,225 at Target Field.

“I want to win,” Cease said. “I don’t need any extra motivation. It’s definitely not hard to find these days.”

Cease and relievers Joe Kelly and José Ruiz combined on the one-hitter, helping the Sox take three of four in an important division series.

“Dylan, he was the horse we rode,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “He was doing it efficiently and could have pitched longer, but we stopped in the seventh. What he’s done all year. He’s picked us up at important times. This was an important one.”

Yoán Moncada (two-run) and Andrew Vaughn hit back-to-back homers in the seventh and Josh Harrison had a three-run homer later in the inning as the Sox (46-46) gained ground in the American League Central. They trail the first-place Twins (50-44) by three games and the Cleveland Guardians (46-44) by one.

“We’re chasing them in the standings right now,” Cease said. “It was important to make a statement and show that we’re still here. I think it’s going to be a good second half.”

Throughout 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 Sunday and 50 in the four games.

“I know the team understands what we accomplished the last 18 games (going 11-7 in 17 days),” La Russa said. “Everybody — you include fans — can decide for themselves if it’s impressive or whatever. But I know they 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 Friday.”

Cease set the tone, keeping the Twins hitless until Alex Kirilloff singled to left with one out in the fifth. He followed up 5⅔ scoreless innings in the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader in Cleveland, which the Sox won 7-0.

He improved to 9-4 while lowering his ERA to 2.15. He’s third in the AL in ERA and leads the majors with 150 strikeouts. He has 501 career strikeouts, reaching 500 quicker (401⅔ innings) than any pitcher in Sox history, surpassing Chris Sale (472⅓), according to Elias.

“He has been unbelievable for us,” Sox designated hitter José Abreu said through an interpreter. “Outstanding. All the emphasis and effort to get better with each outing. That has been beneficial to us.

“I don’t know how he’s not in the All-Star Game. It’s crazy.”

Shortstop Tim Anderson and closer Liam Hendriks will represent the team at the All-Star Game on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The Sox took the lead Sunday with a two-out rally in the fifth with Anderson playing a big role.

Seby Zavala walked and Adam Engel singled to left. 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 with a two-run double against reliever Tyler Duffey, making it 4-0.

The Sox broke the game open with six runs in the seventh. Moncada’s two-run homer to center against Joe Smith went 437 feet. Vaughn followed with a homer to left.

Harrison made it 10-0 with the three-run homer later in the inning.

“If you can produce one through nine, which we can, it’s unstoppable,” said Vaughn, who was 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 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 everyone has made to win games,” Abreu said. “As the stats say, we’re improving and that’s good. Coming into the All-Star break, everyone deserves a good break and then come back with some intensity.”