Giolito's 'good vibes' set Sox up for big series

July 14th, 2022

CLEVELAND -- The White Sox will not close the first half of the 2022 season leading or tied for the lead in the American League Central.

Minnesota made sure of that fact with a walk-off victory over the Brewers Wednesday afternoon, giving the Twins a five-game advantage over Chicago. But with four games at Target Field this weekend, the White Sox could set themselves up very nicely for a second-half run with a little success in Minneapolis.

They set themselves up for that Twins series with a 2-1 victory over the Guardians Wednesday evening, giving them two straight victories to earn a split in this four-game road set. The White Sox improved to 3-6 on the season against the Guardians, and left with the same half-game deficit behind them as they carried into Progressive Field.

“If you are going to get two, get the last two because that shows you what I’ve been telling you,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “There’s nothing wrong with the guts on this team. There’s nothing wrong with the chemistry. It’s outstanding.”

“Yeah, big wins. Big win,” said White Sox winning pitcher Lucas Giolito, who closed his first half with a 6-5 record and 4.69 ERA. “These games against teams in our division, considering where we’re at, it’s important that we can take as many W's as we can. I feel like splitting the series was big considering how it started for us. Got good vibes going into this last series before the break.”

Giolito always provides good vibes when facing the Guardians or the former incarnation known as the Indians. By allowing one unearned run over 6 1/3 innings, the right-hander has allowed six earned runs over his last 65 1/3 innings in the past 10 starts against the Guardians, with 75 strikeouts.

In his last five starts in Cleveland, Giolito has yielded two earned runs in 31 2/3 innings while striking out 36. Giolito's now 1.77 ERA against Cleveland is the lowest he has against any opponent and, among starters with at least 50 IP against Cleveland in the expansion era (since 1961), it's tied for second lowest all time.

“I do enjoy pitching here, I like the mound here,” Giolito said. “But I just think that when I pitch against this team, I’ve got to give a lot of credit to the catchers I’m throwing to. Especially tonight. A lot of those guys in that lineup have seen me plenty of times. Just changing up the sequencing and game plans and trying to keep them off balance.”

“Boy, he’s pitched well against us,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “Coming in, he hadn’t quite been -- there’s been some home runs and not quite the command, but we didn’t see that. He’s pitched really well against us.”

Two runs in the sixth were all the White Sox needed, as Reynaldo López, Kendall Graveman (14th hold) and Liam Hendriks (18th save) locked down the Guardians to improve their record to 43-45. These two teams will meet for four games again the weekend after the All-Star break, from July 22-24, at Guaranteed Rate Field with a doubleheader on Saturday. But first the White Sox will try to improve on their 1-5 mark against the AL Central leaders.

La Russa finished his postgame session with a “Let’s go, Johnny” in honor of Johnny Cueto starting Game 1 of the Minnesota series. Before the game, La Russa talked about his strong personal desire to see this team turn things around.

“I know the circumstance here and I’ve been here before,” La Russa said. “I literally want to win as much as I ever have in my life. So if we can’t get above .500, and we haven’t, this hasn’t been fun. But I still respect and admire what’s in there and how we keep pushing. And I believe it’s coming.”

Maybe that major step for a team sitting below .500 since holding a 22-21 record on May 25 will come at Target Field.

“There’s knowledge on both sides,” Graveman said. “We both know that it’s a big series. So now it comes down to competing and execution, and we’ll see where we are at when the four days are over.

“Every team I’ve been on, there’s ebbs and flows throughout the season. You pitch it well, you play good defense, you keep yourself in ballgames and the hitting will come and it will show up. These guys are good. We have a great lineup. I’m not worried one bit about those guys.”