While the value of the statistic is up for debate, wins are coming with regularity for Dylan Cease.
The fifth-ranked White Sox prospect gave up one run on one hit -- a solo homer -- over six innings for his Carolina League-leading seventh win as Class A Advanced Winston-Salem beat Carolina, 5-1, on Sunday at BB&T Ballpark. He struck out five and issued a pair of walks in his 11th start of the season.
Gameday box score
Cease (7-2) totaled four victories in his first three seasons, going 1-10 in 22 starts last year in the Midwest and South Atlantic leagues. Against the Mudcats, he retired the final 11 batters to win his third straight decision.
After breezing through the first inning, the right-hander encountered some trouble in the second. Ronnie Gideon led off with his sixth homer of the season, a solo shot over the left-center wall, and Cease walked Brewers No. 14 prospect Mario Feliciano on five pitches. From there, he found his groove, retiring Ryan Aguilar and Max McDowell on groundouts before striking out Cooper Hummel.
Dallas Carroll drew a one-out walk in the third, but he was the Mudcats' last baserunner against Cease, who rang up two more strikeouts in his sixth outing of at least six innings this season. He lasted that long only three times in 2017.
Video: Winston-Salem's Cease fans fifth batter of outing
Since a May 11 start against Down East in which he surrendered eight runs on nine hits over two innings, the 22-year-old has begun to display all the tools in his repertoire. He's second in the league with 69 strikeouts, ranks fourth among starting pitchers with a .212 opponents' batting average and said his secondary pitches have a lot to do with his success and endurance.
"I've made a lot of progress there with both the changeup and my slider," he told NBC Sports Chicago earlier this week. "I feel good with all of them, although I have to say my best one is still my curveball. But my changeup, I feel like I can throw it for strikes now, even when I'm behind or in fastball counts, and I'm getting a lot more swings and misses on it and a lot more takes in general."
Projected as a first-round talent, he lost most of his senior season in high school due to an elbow injury. The Cubs, seeing his potential, drafted him in the sixth round in 2014 before he underwent Tommy John surgery. Over the next three seasons, he totaled 162 innings and was dealt to the White Sox last July along with Eloy Jimenez in the trade for Jose Quintana.
As he grew comfortable with the professional workload, Cease flashed a knack for missing bats. He averaged 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings last season, ranking fourth among Minor Leaguers who threw at least 93 1/3 frames. The Georgia native has fanned at least five in all but one start this year, recording a career-high 12 against Lynchburg on May 1.
"Right now, it's all about how the pitches feel coming out of my hand and the shape of it and how batters react," he told NBC Sports Chicago. "Sure, I'll analyze if I'm walking people or how they're getting hits, but it all goes back to how it feels coming out of my hand. I'm a little less analytical in that sense. I'm just working on how it feels."
After Gideon's solo shot, Winston-Salem's Zach Remillard tied it up with a leadoff blast that sparked a four-run third. He finished with two hits along with Joel Booker, who doubled twice.