CLEVELAND — At the end of the day, Lucas Giolito’s earned run average was right where it was at the beginning of the day: not good.
The struggling White Sox right-hander, who came into Tuesday’s game with the worst ERA in the major leagues at 7.53, left with the exact same number after allowing five earned runs on nine hits in six innings in a 7-3 loss to the Indians at Progressive Field.
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Giolito, however, did not walk a batter, which is worth noting because he came into the game averaging 6.8 walks per nine innings, the second worst ratio in the majors. He struck out three and finished with 62 strikes over 98 pitches.
That was enough for all inside the Sox circle to call it a good day, which probably speaks to their major-league worst 16-36 record as much as anything. Another start like his previous one, in which the tall 23-year-old allowed seven runs and walked three in 1⅓ innings against the Orioles, would have drummed up more “send him down to Class AAA Charlotte” talk from outside the circle.
“He was way better,’’ catcher Omar Narvaez said. “He threw a lot of strikes. It was a positive step for him.’’
Giolito’s fastball averaged 91.8 mph, according to Statcast.
His breaking stuff, though, was described by Narvaez as “filthy.”
“Curveball, slider, changeup,’’ Narvaez said. “We just missed too much over the middle, and against some really good hitters.”
The Indians peppered Giolito (3-6) with steady contact, much of it hard, getting home runs from Michael Brantley (18-game hitting streak) in the third inning and Jose Ramirez (16th home run) in the fifth and doubles from Ramirez and Greg Allen. The Indians posted two runs in the first, one in the third and two in the fifth, with Giolito avoiding the big inning enough to keep himself in the game for six innings.
“Hey, he gave us six innings, five runs,’’ said manager Rick Renteria, who called the outing a step in the right direction while giving a “thumbs up” sign.
“Absolutely,’’ Renteria said. “He was throwing a lot more strikes. He showed he was getting his breaking ball over a little bit better today. He threw some changeups that were pretty good in hitter’s counts that he was able to get some swings and misses on. He ground through what ultimately for him was quite a bit of traffic and still kept it to six innings and five runs. Much better than his previous start for sure.”
“It definitely felt good being back in the strike zone,’’ Giolito said. “The curveball felt a lot better, especially. Changeup, keeping it down. I just got too much of the plate. Trying to get in on lefties and missing over the middle a lot is kind of what hurt me.’’
The Sox lost for the fifth time in the last six games. They close out the three-game series hoping to avoid a sweep Wednesday afternoon with Reynaldo Lopez facing Corey Kluber. Lopez, who came with Giolito and prospect Dane Dunning in the trade for Adam Eaton, has separated himself as the best of the three pitchers acquired.
Giolito will get more chances to make up ground.
“He needs to miss a few more bats,’’ Renteria said.
“He’s got to get ready for the next [start], and hopefully it’s a good one.’’
Tim Anderson’s RBI single against Mike Clevinger (3-2, 3.14) in the second accounted for the Sox’ first run. Daniel Palka (2-for-4) hit his fifth home run in the ninth. Palka is batting .326 with two homers, two triples and six RBI over his last 11 games. Trayce Thompson blooped a two-out RBI double in the ninth.