Anticipated fireworks fizzle for Verlander, Cease

    Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers MLB for ESPN.com.

CHICAGO — The American League Cy Young race probably didn’t alter much on Tuesday, as both Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander and his top competitor for the honor — Chicago White Sox righty Dylan Cease — each gave up three runs in the White Sox’s eventual 4-3 victory.

For the second night in a row, White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada drove in the winning run with an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth.

Neither starter was around for a decision in the game. Verlander, 39, lasted seven innings, while Cease, 26, went only five. Cease gave up three runs on six hits and three walks, the first time in his past 15 outings he has given up more than one earned run.

Verlander had a 3-1 lead in the seventh, but pinch hitter Gavin Sheets doubled home the tying runs on a 1-2 pitch not long after Verlander issued his first walk of the night, to catcher Seby Zavala.

Cease saw his ERA go up for the first time since May 24 — a span of 14 starts, the longest for a starting pitcher since 2019. While leading 1-0 in the third, he gave up RBI doubles to Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker; then in the fifth, Jose Altuve hit a solo shot to lead off the inning.

Seeing Cease and his devastating slider for the first time this season, Astros hitters adjusted the second time through the order. Altuve and Yuli Gurriel laid off pitches just off the zone while earning back-to-back walks to open the third inning, eventually leading to the two runs.

The matchup was just the third since 1969 between two starters with sub-2.00 ERAs. Verlander is the favorite (-175) to win the AL Cy Young Award, according to Caesars Sportsbook, while Cease is the second choice.

Verlander and Miami Marlins righty Sandy Alcantara are now the only two (qualified) pitchers with sub-2.00 ERAs, after Cease saw his rise to 2.09. Verlander’s 1.95 ERA is still first in the AL but is now second to Alcantara (1.92) in all of baseball.

The White Sox have won the first two games of their four-game series against Houston, a rematch of an AL Division Series in October.

One game separates three teams at the top of the AL Central.

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