The Chicago White Sox thumped the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night by a score of 9-3 (box score). In doing so, the White Sox picked up their 20th win of 2021, moved to a season-best seven games over .500, and maintained a one game lead over Cleveland for first place in the AL Central.
José Abreu homered and scored three runs, Yasmani Grandal went deep for the first time since April 5, and five Chicago relievers combined for four scoreless innings. Starter Dylan Cease, the 25-year-old right-hander who's been a revelation for the White Sox this season, wasn't quite at his sharpest, as he allowed three earned on five hits in five innings. However, Cease in the fourth inning did snap off one of the most aesthetically pleasing breaking balls we've seen in some time. Take a look as he makes a hash of Andrelton Simmons with the knuckle curve:
Cease sits 96 mph with his fastball, and when you're geared up for that -- or at least have it in the back of your mind -- than an 81 mph hammer that breaks from the top of the zone to the dirt can be a jarring experience. Simmons isn't a bad major league hitter, but he looked like an over-matched nine-year-old on that swing. That's what more than 3,000 RPMs of spin and 64 inches (!) of vertical break (and just a touch of arm-side run) will do.
Cease doesn't dial up the knuckle curve all that often -- just about 10 percent of the time in 2021. But he picks his spots well, as opposing hitters are batting just .111 against the offering. He's added quite a bit of spin to the pitch this season, and as a result he may be gaining confidence in it as an out pitch. Given that he throws the fastball or slider more than 80 percent of the time, the knuckle curve is a jarring -- and quite effective -- third pitch. Mr. Simmons will surely attest to that.