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At this point, the Chicago White Sox might need to work to avoid a tailspin. Meanwhile, their opponents for Wednesday, the host Pittsburgh Pirates, are breathing a little more easily the past several days.

Chicago dropped its fifth straight game, its longest losing streak this year, by squandering a seventh-inning lead and falling 6-3 to the Pirates on Tuesday in the first of a two-game series.

Chicago’s lead in the American League Central is growing more tenuous by the day, and their latest loss, after being swept in four games at Houston, came against a team that is threatening to lose 100 games or more but also is relishing every high-intensity win.

“I think it was one of the cooler moments since I’ve been managing here,” second-year Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said of his team’s comeback with a four-run seventh inning Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Chicago right-hander Dylan Cease (5-3, 3.99 ERA) is scheduled to start opposite Pittsburgh right-hander Chase De Jong (0-1, 4.26 ERA).

Cease’s last outing came at the start of Houston’s four-game series sweep of the White Sox and their losing streak.

Last Thursday, Cease allowed a season-high seven runs, six of them earned, and four hits and tied a season-worst in lasting just 3 1/3 innings, with two walks and four strikeouts.

“He’s been so outstanding. (That) was really the first game where his secondary pitches weren’t consistent,” Chicago manager Tony La Russa said.

Cease seemed mostly unruffled and looked forward to this next start.

“That’s the name of the game. Obviously, we’re not going to be perfect,” Cease said. “We’re going to have bad ones. I’m going to feel bad for (a) night, and then … I’m going to get back after it.”

Cease did not get a decision in his only career start against the Pirates, last Sept. 8, when he gave up two runs in five innings.

De Jong, slated for his fifth start of the season, is coming off his first decision in his most recent outing, a hard-luck loss Wednesday at Washington.

He gave up one run, on a Yan Gomes homer in the second, and four hits. He struck out five, on 71 pitches, in four innings, his shortest start this year. Yanking starters after what seems to be truncated outings has been something Shelton has been questioned about, and he defended the call that time.

“He did a really good job. One thing we asked of him was, ‘You’ve got to grind through,’ and I thought he did a really nice job doing that,” Shelton said. “He gave us a chance to win the game.”

The Pirates were trailing 1-0 when De Jong got pulled, but he backed his manager.

“What he said had merit,” De Jong said. “I know that, in that situation, it’s a laborsome inning. We got through it. We didn’t let anybody score. At that point, OK, I did my job.”

De Jong has one career start against the White Sox, but it was a memorable one. He got his first major league win against them while pitching for Minnesota on Sept. 28, 2018. He gave up two runs in six innings.

–Field Level Media