Zoned in from the first pitch on — no, check that, from his warmup pitch on — right-hander Lucas Giolito pitched like the ace the White Sox need Thursday.
Giolito, striking out 13 batters in seven scoreless innings to match his career high, did his part to help his streaking team complete a four-game sweep of the Tigers in a 9-0 victory, the Sox’ fifth win in a row, at Guaranteed Rate Field.
He struck out the side in order in the seventh and fanned five of the last six Tigers he faced. Giolito allowed three hits, all singles, and walked one.
Riding fairly high into a crosstown series against the Cubs, the Sox (15-11) are feeling pretty good about themselves. Tim Anderson homered for the fourth time in the series, and Eloy Jimenez, the former Cubs prospect, tuned up for the weekend with his team-leading eighth homer.
“We knew Day 1 of spring training — looking around the clubhouse, seeing the young guys, how far we’ve come, seeing the new [veteran] faces — that it’s about time for us to turn that corner,” Giolito said. “The more we’re playing together, even though this is a weird, short year, we are coming together, we’re getting closer. I wouldn’t think it would be possible — we’re already so close — but we’re getting closer on and off the field and letting it happen.”
Giolito (2-2), who lowered his ERA to 3.89, came in at 4.88 largely because of two bad innings. He was coming off a bad start Saturday against the Cardinals, who jumped on him for four runs on four hits, two hit batters and a walk in the first inning. He also allowed four runs in the first inning on Opening Day against the Twins.
“Cleaning up my first inning was a big point of emphasis coming into this start,” Giolito said.
Those first innings were a topic of discussion with other Sox starters in recent days, a sample of how the rotation is coming together and to each other’s aid. Giolito simulated game situations in the bullpen Thursday, approaching it “as if I’m throwing my first inning in the pen.”
The 2019 All-Star was sharp from the get-go, striking out Jeimer Candelario and JaCoby Jones to start the game. Going almost exclusively with his fastball and changeup, Giolito got 21 swinging strikes from his season-high 110 pitches.
Giolito’s fastball averaged 94.5 mph, up one tick from his start against the Cardinals, and his last pitch was 97 mph.
He threw that one past Cameron Maybin on a 3-2 count and left with a 5-0 lead. Jimmy Cordero finished up with two scoreless innings.
“From the minute he started throwing today, he was all business,” catcher James McCann said. “He was aggressive from the get-go.”
McCann, who has lost time behind the plate with Yasmani Grandal (out with a sore back) catching most of the games, was always in sync with Giolito as an All-Star battery last season. Giolito did not shake him off, not even when McCann called nine consecutive changeups in the seventh.
“That was James just knowing what to do to get these guys out,” Giolito said. “Throwing to Mac, it’s a good thing for me, for sure.”
Throwing anything to Anderson of late is a bad thing, and he connected against Tyler Alexander for his sixth homer of the season in the fourth. Danny Mendick doubled in a run in the third, and Edwin Encarnacion (bases-loaded walk against Tigers starter Spencer Turnbull), Nomar Mazara and McCann drove in runs in a three-run first.
Anderson singled and scored in the eighth on Jose Abreu’s second double, and Jimenez drove in Abreu with his homer against Joe Jimenez.
Anderson is batting .519/.552/1.185 with five home runs and 13 runs scored in six games against the Tigers in 2020 and has hit safely in five consecutive games, going 10-for-21 with four home runs during the streak.