Tuesday was a big day for White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito and pitching coach Ethan Katz and Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty.
It just wasn’t a pitchers’ duel.
Let down by three errors, two hit batters and two wild pitches, Flaherty lasted only 3⅔ innings and allowed seven runs (three earned) in the Sox’ 8-3 victory. After entering the game with an 8-0 record and a 2.53 ERA, it was apparent early that Flaherty was on his way to his worst outing of the year. Jose Abreu made it worse with a two-run home run in the fourth inning.
Giolito, meanwhile, was making his first start since an eight-inning, one-run victory May 19 over the Twins. Looking to build off that breakthrough after a slow start, Giolito, who was checked out by the Sox’ training staff on the mound before the fourth due to leg tightness he started feeling in the third, went six innings and allowed two runs, retiring the last eight batters he faced in the battle of former high school teammates.
“The way the game went early on, I don’t want to speak too much on the other team’s defense, but it made the game very weird,” Giolito said. “It wasn’t exactly what we were expecting, but that’s just how it went. Baseball’s weird sometimes. Our team took advantage early, and I was able to do my job.”
No, the matchup didn’t live up to the hype. But it was still a meaningful evening for Katz, the high school pitching coach for Giolito and Flaherty at Harvard-Westlake in Los Angeles.
“I don’t know if this will ever happen again, where a high school coach is in a dugout [watching] two guys he had at the age of 14,” Katz said before the game. “We’re all still very close, and it will be a special night.”
Katz, 37, was hired to replace Don Cooper as the Sox’ pitching coach and has helped the rotation become one of baseball’s best. His path to the gig was not direct and included stops in the Angels, Mariners and Giants organizations.
“I’m blessed to be where I am today, to be able to say I’m a big-league coach and I’m able to watch guys that I coached in high school when I didn’t even know I was going to be a coach,” Katz said. “It’s special. It’s something that I don’t take any days for granted.”
The game ended up not being as special for Flaherty.
Clearly struggling with his command, he fell behind in a 26-pitch first inning. The troubles, though, weren’t entirely of his making.
Tim Anderson led off and reached on an error by Cardinals shortstop Edmundo Sosa, then eventually scored on Abreu’s groundout. Adam Eaton, who was hit by a Flaherty pitch, scored when Cardinals right fielder Tommy Edman dropped what should’ve been an inning-ending fly ball hit by Yermin Mercedes.
Flaherty’s and the defense’s struggles continued in the second inning.
Zack Collins led off with a single, reached second on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Nick Madrigal to center but was only sent by third-base coach Joe McEwing after Dylan Carlson couldn’t come up with the ball cleanly. Anderson then reached to load the bases when perennial Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado misplayed his grounder. Flaherty walked Yoan Moncada to make it 4-0 before another wild pitch brought in Madrigal to increase the Sox’ lead to 5-0.
“There’s sometimes when you get into situations like that you’ve got to bump up and give it that extra gear of stuff,” Flaherty said. “
Staked to that advantage, Giolito allowed Carlson’s third-inning sacrifice fly and another run in the fourth on a wild pitch before settling in to beat Flaherty. He did that despite waiting out long innings with the Sox at bat.
“He’s talented, he’s tough and he’s courageous,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said.
Katz’s focus, even considering his relationship with Flaherty, was Giolito.
“There’s been a lot of work put in behind the scenes with him,” Katz said, “but the last outing was exceptional, and we’re hoping that everything continues on from what he did, and we’ll just continue putting in the work on the side.”
Giolito’s wasn’t just tested by facing a friend and former teammate.
During his warm-up tosses before the sixth, the San Diego Chicken came out of a gate behind home plate and presented umpire Joe West with a bouquet of flowers. Despite walking nobody Tuesday, Giolito was somewhat concerned about nailing the famed mascot with an errant pitch.
“I was able to keep it around the strike zone in the warm-ups there and stay locked in on what I needed to do,” Giolito said.