Lucas Giolito had it and lost it quickly on Thursday night, proving once again that the White Sox live and die by their starting pitching.
The White Sox starter struck out the side in the first. Each strikeout came from a different pitch as Giolito fanned Zack McKinstry with a slider, Javier Báez with a fastball, and Riely Green with a changeup.
That’s why it was so disheartening to see him walking off the mound with his hand on his head just 2 2/3 innings later after allowing a disastrous four-run fourth inning.
Walks were the culprit. In 3 3/23 innings, Giolito allowed four earned runs on six hits and walked a career-high seven batters. He only recorded one more strikeout after logging three in the first.
“I never thought that I’d be walking seven guys in a game,” Giolito said. “It’s unacceptable. Team’s going good, you want to set the series off on the right start. Did that in the first inning, but I lost feel and didn’t get it back.”
The White Sox have played better baseball lately, winning seven of their last ten. But with five of the next nine games coming against the Tigers, who are ahead of the White Sox in the AL Central, the team can’t afford to waste opportunities to gain ground, especially when those losses are due to self-inflicted wounds.
When those wounds are inflicted by Giolito, who has been the best starter in the rotation this year, it becomes an even tougher pill to swallow.
The 28-year-old righty was all over the place, throwing just 49 of 89 pitches for strikes.
The damage could have been even worse had Giolito not induced some timely double plays in the second and third inning. He loaded the bases in the third but was able to escape after Romy Gonzalez caught a line drive and then caught Riley Green off second base.
Things finally unraveled the next inning after he allowed a leadoff home run, a four-pitch walk, and a double.
Giolito’s bad outing broke up a dominating run that saw White Sox starters post a 1.86 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in the last nine games.
It also raised his ERA to 3.98 after striking out 19 with just three walks over the course of his last five starts. During that run, Giolito had a 2.84 ERA.
“We’ve been doing a fantastic job until I screwed that up today,” Giolito exclaimed after the game. “Nothing but amazing things to say about the whole group, what guys have been working through behind the scenes and then coming out and really just doing such a nice job setting the tone–and pitching deep into games and helping our bullpen out.”
The loss looms large since the White Sox will now have to lean on Lance Lynn, who carries a 6.28 ERA on Friday. But since Giolito failed to even make it five innings, the bullpen had to cover a lot of ground. Gregory Santos, Garrett Crochet, and Aaron Bummer all threw over 15 pitches. Crochet logged 41, while Bummer threw 27. If the White Sox need to use them on getaway day, then Lance Lynn is going to have to eat some inning on Friday.
Winning two of three in those circumstances is a tall order for any team, especially one with a 21-31 record.
especially one with a 21-31 record