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Lucas Giolito good again, but White Sox fall to Twins

Giolito surpasses 200 strikeouts with nine Ks, allows two runs over six innings in White Sox loss

Lucas Giolito towels off during the first inning of his start against the Twins Tuesday Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
AP Photos

For right-hander Lucas Giolito, 2019 has been the comeback, the minor relapse and the return to excellence.

The comeback from a bad 2018 to All-Star in 2019 has been well documented. The regression with a 5.65 ERA in July tested the validity of it. And the bounce-back from that mini-slump leaves you to believe this Giolito is the real deal.

With six innings of two-run ball Tuesday, Giolito continued on the path where he belongs in the Sox’ 3-1 loss to the AL Central leading Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field. Giolito (14-7, 3.20 ERA) walked three and allowed home runs to Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Schoop in the second inning but only two additional hits while striking out nine, including Miguel Sano to wrap a bow around his final inning and latest good outing.

Fending off the challenge of familiarity with an opposing lineup facing the Twins for the fourth time in his last 11 starts, Giolito joined Ed Walsh, Javier Vazquez, Tom Bradley, Esteban Loaiza and Alex Fernandez as the only righties in Sox history to strike out 200 in a season. Vazquez in 2007 and ‘08 was the last to do it. Giolito’s 11.59 strikeouts per nine innings mark (203 in 157 2/3 innings) would be the second-highest in franchise history and the best by a Sox right-hander.

“Knowing the year I had last year and the changes I made, it’s a pretty cool accomplishment,” Giolito said. “I’m happy about that. I knew that I was that type of pitcher, I just had to find it somewhere. And I’m happy that I did.”

What Giolito is doing is putting himself down for some Cy Young votes after the season, a possible Comeback Player of the Year nod and an Opening Day start in 2020. Those July doldrums are definitely in his rear-view mirror.

“He put together such a nice run before the All-Star break,” Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “To assume he was going to go that way the whole time, I don’t know if I would have counted on that.”

Giolito’s ERA, at 2.72 after five innings of one-hit scoreless ball against the Twins on June 30, climbed to 3.52 four starts later when the Twins pelted him for four homers and seven runs on July 25. He responded with five consecutive strong starts, including a masterful three-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts against the same Twins (80-51) last Wednesday.

Tuesday’s challenge was to be great again while making it look different to a team that has seen him so much.

“They made some adjustments, for sure, from the last outing,” Giolito said. “The elevated fastball wasn’t working as well today — I think that they were cheating to that a little bit. So we kind of went a different route after the second inning, threw away more, tried to mix in some more sliders on the hands of lefties.”

Giolito’s different route in 2019 is borderline astounding. His 2.93 ERA improvement (6.13 ERA in 2018) from last season is the best in baseball, and the second-best in history behind the Cubs’ Dick Ellsworth (2.98) from 1962-63 according to STATS LLC.

The next step for Giolito will be to demonstrate the consistency that solidifies his place among the best right-handers in the game, Renteria said.

““He’s trending up in terms of consistency,” Renteria said. “Time will tell us if he is actually like those guys.”

The Twins homers in the second inning – sandwiched around strikeouts of C.J. Cron and Jake Cave -- put the Sox in a 2-0 hole, but the Sox (60-71) cut it in half on Tim Anderson’s homer to center against righty Michael Pineda in the fourth. The Sox bullpen allowed the Twins’ third run.

Sox starters have pitched to a 2.20 ERA over the last eight games. Their 2.81 ERA in 19 games since Aug. 7 is the best mark in the AL.