So this is what a bad game feels like.
Three homers, seven hits and three walks allowed. No feel for a changeup that was “all over the place.”
And if umpire Cory Blaser had “an interesting strike zone” that might have worked against him, as manager Rick Renteria and catcher James McCann suggested, Lucas Giolito wasn’t going to play the blame game.
This one, and all six runs, were on him in a rare bad outing.
Giolito was all over the map, enduring his first true dud of the season Wednesday in the White Sox’ 7-3 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field, his eight-win streak coming to an abrupt halt. He got crunched in the first inning by Willson Contreras’s grand slam and was hammered again by Contreras’ solo shot in the third.
“I got a run [on Leury Garcia’s homer against Jon Lester on the game’s first pitch] and then went out there and gave up four, unacceptable in my book,” Giolito said. “Just not competing to my best ability. Didn’t have my best stuff, but it hasn’t stopped me from pitching well. Just left too many balls up.”
Giolito asked for it by walking two Cubs before Contreras’ slam. A silver lining? The 21 swinging strikes he got while striking out nine Cubs in 4„ innings. The bottom line? Giolito suffered his first loss since April 6 against the Mariners after he came in with a 9-0 record and 1.67 ERA in his previous 11 starts and high hopes of giving the Sox (35-37) a two-game sweep at Wrigley.
“I spoke to Lucas,’’ Renteria said, ‘‘and he just kept saying, ‘I wasn’t very good today.’ It’s as simple as that.’’
When Giolito walked Contreras with one out in the fourth, Renteria had seen enough. He pulled his ace after 88 pitches (56 for strikes).
“You’re not going to have a great outing every single time,” said Giolito (10-2, 2.74 ERA), who has actually come close to doing that this season. “I would’ve liked to control the damage better than I did tonight, but I’ve got another one in five days.”
After Contreras’ slam and Jason Heyward’s single that followed, it looked like Giolito might regroup as he often has when he struck out five of the next six batters, including Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. He threw three changeups in a row for strikes to Rizzo, who walked back to the dugout shaking his head.
But then Javy Baez lined out hard to left, Contreras homered again, Heyward lined out hard to center for the third out of the third inning and David Bote led off the fourth with a home run.
Giolito had allowed five homers going in, with no more than one in any game.
“You are not going to go eight-inning shutout every time,” McCann said. “It’s what you do in those games when you don’t really have it. Unfortunately, tonight they made us pay for our mistakes.”
McCann homered in the fourth — his seventh to go with a .330 average — and Yoan Moncada doubled in Eloy Jimenez in the same inning to get the Sox within 5-3.
Bote’s homer made it 6-3. Tim Anderson led off the fifth with a double but got thrown out by Contreras trying to steal third with no outs and Jose Abreu and McCann coming up.
Moncada, his stiff upper back well enough to let him start again, also hit a triple. Zack Collins made his major-league debut as a pinch hitter, drawing a walk against Steve Cishek in the ninth. By that time, the Sox were pretty much out of it.
“I wish I had competed better and kept us in the game,” Giolito said. “But it was one of those rough ones.”