If someone had told White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito last season that he would have done what he did in his record-setting outing Thursday, he wouldn’t have believed them.
Catcher James McCann and manager Rick Renteria wouldn’t have, either.
In the Sox’ 6-3 loss to the Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field, Giolito struck out a franchise-record eight consecutive batters. And he did it efficiently, too, throwing only 34 pitches in those strikeouts.
When Royals shortstop Nicky Lopez finally broke Giolito’s strikeout streak with a grounder to end the fifth inning, manager Ned Yost stood up and screamed as though his team had hit a game-winning home run.
‘‘I didn’t want to see nine consecutive strikeouts,’’ Yost said after the game. ‘‘Giolito has been tough on us all year long. The improvements he has made have been impressive. His development as a pitcher is probably the most impressive thing I’ve seen all year long.’’
In the moment, Giolito said he didn’t even realize he had struck out eight batters in a row.
‘‘I thought it was six in a row; I forgot the first two,’’ he said. ‘‘I pretty much [felt] fully confident in every pitch I was throwing, like I knew the result before I threw the pitch. When you have that feeling as a pitcher, you want to ride it out as long as you can.’’
Unfortunately, Giolito lost his groove in the sixth. After walking Whit Merrifield and allowing a single to Jorge Soler, Giolito gave up a three-run home run to Hunter Dozier.
But rather than make a bad inning uglier, which happened frequently last season, Giolito kept his composure and finished with three consecutive outs.
In all, Giolito struck out 12 in six innings. It was the sixth time this season he had 10 or more strikeouts in a game.
‘‘The stuff was good today,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘Good fastball, changeup. The eight strikeouts in a row shows you the ability he has to shut down the offense.’’
Giolito’s rise from being one of the worst pitchers in the majors last season to being one of the best this season has been well-documented. His performance Thursday was just another reminder to the Sox that Giolito is here to stay.
‘‘He’s well on his way to being an excellent big-league starter for us,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘And we are expecting and anticipating he’s going to be a big piece of us moving forward the rest of the year and next year and the coming years.’’
Yoan Moncada went 3-for-5 with a run scored and Tim Anderson, who leads the American League with a .333 batting average, went 2-for-5 for the Sox.
Though the loss assured the Sox (64-82) of their seventh consecutive sub-.500 season, Renteria said he thinks there are brighter days ahead.
‘‘I’m expecting that this is it,’’ he said of the losing seasons. ‘‘We are trying to win. . . . I know there’s still refining to do, but I’ll be honest with you: We are finishing this season, and we are talking about coming into next season ready to battle — period, exclamation point. That’s what we are looking to do.’’