After leading the American League in walks a year ago, Lucas Giolito started his 2019 campaign off ... with a leadoff walk. However, if that fostered any concerns of him falling back into old habits, then what followed should have been enough to calm the nerves.
Giolito followed that leadoff, four-pitch walk by retiring the next 19 batters, giving the Chicago White Sox a head start toward an eventual 6-3 win that staved off an opening weekend sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals.
The righthander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and got the leadoff man, Adalberto Mondesi, on a tap out back to the mound. With one out, Alex Gordon ended the no-hit bid with a single to center. Giolito whiffed Jorge Soler, but then gave up successive hits to Ryan O’Hearn (double) and Lucas Duda. Hits No. 2 and 3 plated two runs, and bounced Giolito from the game.
Giolito finished with two earned on two hits, with eight Ks and only the leadoff walk.
.@LGio27 kicked off his 2019 season in a BIG way. pic.twitter.com/YPKzpxk5oP— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) March 31, 2019
Both Giolito and Kansas City starter Jorge López were locked in early, with both teams going scoreless into the 4th inning. Even when it looked like the White Sox might get something going in the third inning after a Tim Anderson leadoff double, López kept it locked in and retired the next three batters, leaving Anderson stranded at second base.
Things began heating up for the South Siders in the fourth. After Yoan Moncada started the inning off with his second strikeout of the game, Jose Abreu crushed a 3-1 mistake to the fountains in left-center for his second homer of the year.
Believe it or not, that solo shot gave the White Sox their first lead of the 2019 season.
Then, before Jason Benetti and Steve Stone could even finish talking about Abreu’s bomb, Yonder Alonso followed up with his first home run of the season, and his first with the White Sox.
The White Sox held the lead all game — although they would need to tack on a few more runs in order to preserve it.
After both teams went three up, three down in the fifth inning, the Sox would open things up a little more in the sixth. After a long at-bat, Abreu was walked to load the bases after a single from Leury Garcia and a Moncada double.
Following the Abreu walk, Royals manager Ned Yost called it a day for López, calling on the lefty Tim Hill to face fellow lefthander Alonso with the bases loaded and no outs. K.C.’s starter allowed two runs on six hits in five innings (and would be charged with four earned runs on the day).
Taking the mound with the bases loaded, Hill started things out with back-to-back walks to Alonso and Jiménez, increasing the White Sox lead to 4-0. Hill would then get Daniel Palka to ground into a double play before being replaced by Kevin McCarthy, who then got Anderson to ground out, ending the inning and stopping the damage at two runs.
Following a quick 1-2-3 inning to finish the sixth from Giolito, the White Sox would add two more runs in the top of the seventh. James McCann got things going with a leadoff double, and following consecutive outs from Sánchez and Garcia, would eventually be driven home on a Moncada single. After a four-pitch walk to Abreu, Alonso drove in the second, and final run of the inning and game for the Sox with line drive single to right field.
Don't stop now, boys!— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) March 31, 2019
We've opened up a 6-0 lead at the stretch. pic.twitter.com/Fk81qfZL9I
The game could not end without at least a little bit of pressure being put on by the Royals. The seventh inning, when Giolito was bounced, represented their first rally of the game. Still, after the Royals plated their two, Ryan Burr came on with two outs and a runner on second and needed only one pitch to get out of the inning.
Kelvin Herrera got through the eighth on his own, but not before letting the Royals get one run closer after allowing a three hits, cutting the Sox lead to 6-3. That would be the last run the Royals would score, however. After Alex Colomé earned a save by retiring the side in order.
This ballgame is.... Ovah! #SoxWin!— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) March 31, 2019
Final: #WhiteSox 6, #Royals 3. pic.twitter.com/Hg5dfupyvY
Up next for the White Sox is a quick two-game series in Cleveland starting tomorrow, before heading home for the three-game, home-opener series against the Seattle Mariners. Iván Nova will be on the bump tomorrow to make his White Sox debut, facing off against Mike Clevinger. Year of the Hamster will bring you all of the April Fool’s Day festivities, beginning at 3:10 p.m. CT.