You all remember Lucas Giolito, staff ace?
It was only a year ago, and the year before that, when Giolito held the title for the White Sox. A sluggish start — by his standards — coupled with All-Star first halves from right-hander Lance Lynn and left-hander Carlos Rodon loosened Giolito’s grip on that distinction.
But here he comes again.
The 27-year-old right-hander’s one-run performance in six innings in a 3-1 loss Wednesday to the Blue Jays was his latest strong start. Seeing it go for naught after the Jays scored two runs against Aaron Bummer in the eighth inning to drop the Sox to 2-4 on their road trip against the Jays and Rays was unsettling.
But seeing Giolito (3.68 ERA) allow five hits and one walk and strike out six, dropping his ERA to 2.77 in his eight starts since the All-Star break, softened the blow for a first-place team (73-55) that is 19-20 since the All-Star break.
“I’m not too concerned with where we’re at right now,” Giolito said. “Some guys offensively are not getting those big hits in certain situations or stringing things together. We lost, but we were in it the whole time. Guys are working through stuff. We’ll pick each other up, we have confidence in each other and we’ll start to get hot again and play solid baseball leading to the playoffs.”
Giolito got 19 swings and misses, most of them with his changeup, but he had no margin for error in a matchup with Jays left-hander Robbie Ray, who struck out 14 in seven innings of one-run ball. Right fielder Leury Garcia singled, stole two bases and scored on Yoan Moncada’s bloop single to right in the third inning for the Sox’ only run.
The Jays, fighting for a wild-card spot, tied it in the fourth on Corey Dickerson’s RBI triple with two outs that sailed over Garcia’s head, and they went ahead after Bummer allowed three consecutive singles, the third one by Alejandro Kirk scoring Teoscar Hernandez.
The Sox have three good starts in the series but one win to show for it, although manager Tony La Russa said “the two losses were not bullpen breakdowns.”
An error by Moncada on a ground ball and a bases-loaded walk to Randal Grichuk by Jose Ruiz gave the Jays an extra run.
Giolito, meanwhile, showed his versatility by leaning on his bread-and-butter changeup after he had gone to the slider more in his last two starts. He had inadvertently “messed up the grip with my changeup” early in the season but corrected it. He also evolved from a two-pitch — four-seam fastball and changeup — pitcher to a three-pitch hurler, adding an effective slider to his mix, especially in his last three starts.
“I wouldn’t say I ever lost confidence with my stuff at any point in the season,” Giolito said. “It was just frustration with the lack of results. And we just had to make a few adjustments to where now I feel like I’m in a much better place pitching about as well as I can. I just want to keep improving.”
Giolito said the highlight of his career was pitching in the postseason last year, when he beat the Athletics in Game 1 of their wild-card series. He says he’s not looking ahead to his next playoff appearance.
“Not really because we still have something like 40 games left, and we have to stay on top of what we need to do,” he said. “I know the division lead is big and the coaching staff is finding ways to give players rest when they need it and make sure we’re prepared for the playoffs, but we’ve got to stay focused on our day-to-day, game-to-game. We need to win this game and maintain that mentality going right into the postseason.”