Dylan Cease Ran Into One Hell Of A Final Boss
10:50 AM EDT on September 4, 2022
Have you ever wished for the average no-hit bid to feature more narrative drama? Don't get me wrong, there is no way to prevent the tension and pressure from building as a hurler makes his way into the later innings with a zero under the Hits column. But given the structure of the game, there's also no way to guarantee that the final out will be the hardest to record. Perhaps they should make a rule that says whenever a pitcher is one out away from recording a no-hitter, the opposing team can send the nastiest, most un-get-outable bastard on their roster to the plate. Wouldn't that be cruel, and fun?
If such a rule existed, the Twins would have had no need to exercise it at the end of last night's game against the White Sox. Minnesota lost that game 13-0, and for 8.2 innings they could not scratch out a hit against White Sox starter Dylan Cease. Chicago's ace breezed through the first 26 outs of the game by doing what he's been doing all season: throwing one of the best sliders in the league over and over and over again, and watching hitters helplessly flail away. All of that got him one out away from a no-no, at which point he had to watch Luis Arraez stride to the plate.
If you are unfamiliar with Arraez, the main thing you need to know about him is that he is about as hard of an out as outs come. He leads the AL in batting average, and he's also one of those guys who just never seems anything but comfortable in the box. He's struck out just 38 times this year, and Statcast has him down as not only the hardest player in the league to strike out, but also the most difficult player to even elicit a swing and miss from. This guy's strikeout rate is a fake-seeming 7.6 percent, and his whiff rate is just 7.4 percent. Toss in the fact that Arraez has one of the worst hard-hit rates in the league, and what you have is a hitter who was specifically designed to spoil a no-hitter in the most aggravating way possible: with a soft liner that settles into the gap.
It's a testament to how untouchable Cease has been this year that he dispatched Arraez the first three times he faced him in the game. He even struck him out once! But perhaps that just stacked the probabilities against Cease, because when Arraez stepped into the box with two outs in the ninth inning, he did this:
A bummer for Cease, but also a great moment for baseball. Any clash between the league's most unhittable pitcher and most unflappable hitter is a good one, but to have one occur with a no-hitter on the line elevates the moment into a new realm of Cool Baseball Shit. If there's a reason to keep tuning into early September baseball games between two teams from the most putrid division in the game, it's for the chance that you might catch something like this—a moment in which the circumstances fall just into place, and there's suddenly everything to play for.