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White Sox 6, Athletics 4: Giolito back on track

Rough beginning and end belie terrific performance

Oakland Athletics v Chicago White Sox - Game Two
Throw out the ends: Innings two through seven were good stuff for Lucas Giolito tonight.
Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

Coming into the nightcap of today’s doubleheader, Lucas Giolito had the highest ERA, FIP, and walk rate in the major leagues. Or he would have, but his outings have been so short that he somehow failed to reach qualifying innings despite not missing a start this season.

Things were looking dark again early in this one when Giolito walked two Athletics in the first and then gave up a shift-beating RBI single to Matt Olson. Two more walks, one more first inning run—the broken record of 2018 ugliness was spinning once again. It looked like the White Sox’s eight-game losing streak was going to continue.

From there, though, the tune quickly changed. Giolito got a strikeout to avoid further damage, and then the offense strung together four hits in the second to give him a 3-1 lead. From there, the big right-hander put it on cruise control, retiring 17 of 19 hitters. His fastball was sitting at 93-94, and his breaking pitches were darting to and fro.

Ultimately, Giolito threw 69 of 100 pitches for strikes and got through seven innings (a season high) with two runs allowed, just the two first-inning walks, and eight strikeouts (also a season high). His only real blemish after the first was a towering solo home run by Olson in the sixth. With the lead now 5-2, Rick Renteria probably should’ve patted him on the back and handed the ball over to the bullpen. Instead, he sent him out to face the top of the order a fourth time in the eighth. Dustin Fowler and Marcus Semien responded with two sharp singles, so Renteria swung in the other direction and over-managed his bullpen.

Jace Fry came in, A’s manager Bob Melvin countered with pinch-hitter Stephen Piscotty, and Fry walked Piscotty on four pitches to load the bases. Then Renteria went to Chris Volstad, who ran the count to 3-1 on Khris Davis before giving up a sharp single up the middle that scored a pair. Suddenly the score was 5-4, and both runs were charged to Giolito, putting a damper on his final stat line.

Suddenly the Athletics had runners at the corners with nobody out in a one-run game. Lefty Xavier Cedeño entered the game as the fourth pitcher of the inning to attempt an escape. The red-hot Olson smashed a ball to the left side that Tim Anderson was able to pull down with his mad hops. Cedeño then struck out Mark Canha on a curveball and got Chad Pinder to hit a ground ball to short. Anderson knocked the ball (and himself) down and recovered just in time to get the force at second and keep the 5-4 lead.

After Anderson’s strong defensive inning, he led off the bottom of the eighth with his 12th home run of the year. That provided more insurance than Joakim Soria needed; he struck out a pair in a 1-2-3 ninth to lock down the win and bring the Sox’s eight-game losing streak to a merciful end.

Despite the four run allowed, this was also a much-needed good start for Giolito. He had a bit of a rough start, and those last two runs (a) didn’t score on his watch, and (b) were arguably the result of a slow hook. Hopefully tonight was the start of more good things to come.

Other Stuff

  • Omar Narvaez led the offense with three hits. The bottom third of the order (Narvaez, Adam Engel, and Charlie Tilson) reached base seven times and drove in five runs.
  • Engel hit a two-run single in the sixth after Semien bobbled what should’ve been an inning-ending double play ball.
  • Daniel Palka had a non-error in the fourth when he got turned around on a deep, but pretty routing, fly ball, and then slipped and fell on the warning track. The ball dropped in for a two-out double, but Giolito got out of the inning with his next pitch.
  • Former White Sox pitcher Chris Bassitt started for Oakland and gave up five runs in 5⅓ innings. In fact, the A’s started three-quarters of their return from the Jeff Samardzija trade—Bassitt, Semien, and Josh Phegley. The only one left out was Rangel Ravelo, who’s now in the Cardinals organization.