Starting pitching is a primary reason the White Sox are on the verge of a division championship, and it will be a key to whether they do anything in the playoffs.
To give themselves the best chance to get through a congested schedule, the Sox are considering expanding their staff before the postseason.
Next month, they also will need to get better starts than the one they received from right-hander Dylan Cease in a 9-8, 10-inning loss Saturday to the Red Sox.
After Cease yielded seven runs in 22⁄3 innings, the Sox rallied from a five-run deficit to get him off the hook in front of a sellout crowd of 37,854. Other than fanning five to end the night with 202 strikeouts this season, Saturday was a forgettable experience for Cease. He walked five and struggled to command his stuff in a third inning in which the Red Sox scored seven times, capped by a three-run home run by Travis Shaw.
‘‘I think a lot of it was just the little things, like not keeping my eyes on the target the whole time,’’ Cease said. ‘‘I don’t think it’s anything major. I think it’s the little fine details of something as simple as that.’’
Cease didn’t take the loss because of the Sox’ five-run fourth that tied the score. They then grabbed an 8-7 lead when Yasmani Grandal, who was playing his 1,000th career game, homered in the fifth.
‘‘Cease has been outstanding, so we picked him up,’’ manager Tony La Russa said. ‘‘That’s what we do sometimes. He picks us up, we picked him up.’’
The Sox’ bullpen, led by 2 1/3 dominant innings by Michael Kopech, held that advantage until Craig Kimbrel allowed a sacrifice fly to Enrique Hernandez in the eighth to tie the score.
The Red Sox went ahead 9-8 on a single by Shaw in the 10th and held on despite the Sox putting runners at first and third with none out in the bottom of the inning. The Red Sox’ Josh Taylor struck out Leury Garcia and Danny Mendick before Brian Goodwin grounded out.
Win or lose, having to come back from a five-run deficit isn’t the template the Sox would like to follow next month. Before that, however, they might get their starters a little more rest.
La Russa indicated the Sox are thinking about going to a six-man rotation, with one reason being the uncertainty about when left-hander Carlos Rodon will pitch again. After a day off Monday, the Sox don’t have an open date till Sept. 27. Beyond Rodon, the Sox are getting right-hander Lance Lynn back Sunday and right-hander Lucas Giolito likely soon.
A forgotten man to begin the season, right-hander Reynaldo Lopez is the most likely candidate to be the sixth starter. In his last four appearances, Lopez has a 2.40 ERA and has shown the stuff that once made him a presumed part of the Sox’ future rotation.
‘‘I remember seeing him when he first got here, and he had the kind of stuff that got your attention,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘I wasn’t here the last couple of years when he struggled, [but] I’m here now and I see . . . he’s picked up velocity. And there probably was something with his vision.
‘‘But his arm feels better. I just know he’s looking more and more like the guy that first got here and made such a good impact.’’