White Sox waste strong games from Lucas Giolito, Luis Robert to fall 16 below .500

It’s the low-water mark for the Sox, who let a late lead slip away. They’ve lost three series in a row and went 1-5 on the homestand. Now they get a much-needed All-Star break.

SHARE White Sox waste strong games from Lucas Giolito, Luis Robert to fall 16 below .500
The White Sox’ Lucas Giolito allowed two runs in seven innings Sunday, lowering his ERA to 3.45.

The White Sox’ Lucas Giolito allowed two runs in seven innings Sunday, lowering his ERA to 3.45.

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

In another life, White Sox starter Lucas Giolito’s seven innings of two-run ball Sunday might have sealed an All-Star-worthy first half.

Giolito, 28, is safely in the American League top 10 in innings pitched and wins above replacement (according to Baseball Reference), and his 3.45 ERA is roughly 25% better than the league average when adjusted for run environment.

‘‘Two starts I wish I could throw away,’’ Giolito said. ‘‘Other than that, it’s the consistency I’ve been searching for throughout my career.’’

‘‘He pitched like an ace,’’ Sox manager Pedro Grifol said.

On winning teams, reliable mid-rotation inning-eaters get considered for honors. On a Sox team that closes the first half a season-worst 16 games below .500 (38-54) after a 4-3 loss to the lowly Cardinals in 10 innings, they get sized up as trade pieces for contenders.

Luis Robert Jr., meanwhile, looked pretty deserving of the Sox’ lone All-Star spot. He doubled and scored the tying run in the seventh before lifting a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the eighth.

That Giolito’s and Robert’s efforts went to waste — thanks to a potential double-play ball that deflected off closer Kendall Graveman’s glove as the Cardinals knotted the score in the ninth and a self-called safety squeeze by Zach Remillard that went awry in the 10th — feels pretty par for the course.

‘‘On the offensive side, we couldn’t get much going,’’ Grifol said. ‘‘We’ve played a lot of tough ballgames, close ballgames. We’ve lost a ton of them.’’

‘‘We haven’t been able to get our offense going consistently,’’ said second baseman Elvis Andrus, who had two of the Sox’ five hits. ‘‘Everybody was ready for this All-Star break. These days, I think we need it as a team.’’

After three consecutive series losses and a 1-5 homestand, a break from Sox baseball is welcome for everyone. But Sunday might have been a greater line of demarcation than simply the mental ‘‘reset’’ those in the clubhouse long for.

With a long road trip that opens against the major-league-best Braves awaiting after the break, the Sox’ next home game is July 25. That is close enough to the trade deadline Aug. 1 to ponder whether Sunday was Giolito’s swan song at Guaranteed Rate Field after parts of seven seasons with the Sox.

‘‘I can’t think like that,’’ said Giolito, who was considered a pillar of the Sox’ rebuild when they acquired him in a trade with the Nationals in December 2016. ‘‘Whatever happens, happens. I made it clear I want to be here.’’

For a pending free agent who repeatedly has voiced his desire to stay for a potential turnaround this season, there’s no benefit for Giolito to look ahead. And having emphasized a short-term focus since the start of spring training, Grifol isn’t the sort to zoom out for a broad assessment of the Sox’ situation, either.

But the Sox entered the season with goals that began with reclaiming control of the AL Central and are in fourth place in a division that lacks a winning team. That sort of shortcoming forces some admissions.

‘‘We’re not where we want to be; we’re not even close to where we want to be,’’ Grifol said. ‘‘Not by any means is this over. We are going to take a break and come back ready to play baseball. We still have baseball to play, and we have some meaningful games that I believe are still in front of us.’’

Until a likely sell-off at the deadline defines their direction, the Sox still are pointing to being within eight games of the AL Central lead. That strains credulity for a team that hasn’t won more than five games in a row all season. But who on the Sox’ roster continues to believe still might be telling.

‘‘Nothing better than to regroup these few days and see how much we want, see how hungry you are,’’ Andrus said.

‘‘If we were in another division, it would be pretty much over,’’ Giolito said.

It pretty much already is.

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