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Giolito rebounds as White Sox rally past Rays

All-Star ends rough stretch as Chicago rallies to win in 11
@Sportsgal25
July 20, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- While Lucas Giolito’s record entering Saturday was not indicative of the White Sox starter’s performance this season, it was clear he has been working through a funk lately. Saturday marked a no-decision for Giolito, whose White Sox rallied to win, 2-1, in the 11th inning at Tropicana

ST. PETERSBURG -- While Lucas Giolito’s record entering Saturday was not indicative of the White Sox starter’s performance this season, it was clear he has been working through a funk lately.

Saturday marked a no-decision for Giolito, whose White Sox rallied to win, 2-1, in the 11th inning at Tropicana Field. It also brought the restored confidence that comes with taking another big step back in the right direction.

Box score

“I thought today was a step in the right direction, [to get] back on track,” Giolito said. “Last outing, I thought I pitched OK, but the stuff wasn’t as good, so I got after it in the gym the past few days, just made sure my body was right for today, saw the velocity back up and all that kind of stuff.

“I’m right where I need to be, throwing strikes, I’m good with one walk there. [It was] just a good battle. [It was] 0-0 for most of the game.”

The right-hander began the season on a tear, winning 10 of his first 11 decisions. By the All-Star break, he’d compiled an 11-3 record and a 3.15 ERA and struck out 120 to become one of just three pitchers in White Sox history with at least 11 wins and 115 punchouts in the first half. Giolito earned his first American League All-Star nod for his efforts, and everything was going well.

Until it wasn’t. The battles began June 19 with six earned runs over 4 1/3 innings against the crosstown-rival Cubs, and leading into play Saturday, they had reached five consecutive starts, a stretch during which Giolito pitched to a 1-3 record and 6.48 ERA.

“This is now part of the learning curve, I think, finding that area in which you’ve had strong success through an early part of the year, and now there are certainly expectations from everyone for him to continue to do that,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said Saturday afternoon. “But we also have to be mindful that this is new, uncharted territory in which he’s shown himself to be very quality, and we want to make sure that we understand how to keep him going in that direction.

“He himself continues to learn who he is, and how to keep himself in a position that continues to drive him consistently through a full season.”

Saturday provided great strides toward that mark. Perhaps nothing spoke louder in favor of a turn for the better than the sixth inning. The game was scoreless when Giolito found himself in a jam as the Rays opened with consecutive hard-hit singles. Unfazed, he rebounded to sit down the side, ringing up Tommy Pham on four pitches, inducing a harmless pop flyout of Nate Lowe and coaxing Yandy Diaz to ground out to short to preserve the scoreless deadlock.

“My last outing, I didn’t do a good job [with that],” Giolito confessed. “I was letting runners on early and letting them creep in to score. Tonight, I just did a better job … of getting back to my breath, controlling the situation and executing pitches when I needed to.”

Giolito received just 10 runs of support during his five-start slump, and that storyline didn’t change Saturday, with the White Sox unable to muster any backup for their starter. Because of that, one mistake pitch that resulted in a seventh-inning home run by Avisail Garcia eventually cost Giolito the win.

Still, he did exactly what was expected: bounced back to secure two more outs before he hit the 100-pitch plateau and was relieved. Giolito walked off to a standing ovation from White Sox fans gathered behind the visitors' dugout.

His last push kept the White Sox very much in it, and it allowed James McCann’s solo shot with two outs in the ninth inning to push the game to extra innings. Yoan Moncada walked to open the 11th and came home one play later on Jose Abreu’s single to right.

Chicago earned at least a series win with Saturday’s victory, a first since June 7-9 against Kansas City. The White Sox will go for the sweep on Sunday afternoon.

While he didn’t earn the victory, Giolito, after allowing one run with nine strikeouts and one walk over 6 2/3 innings, certainly felt like a burden had lifted.

“He’s done a great job all season, obviously, and made some huge strides from one season to the next,” Renteria said. “He came into the spring revamped and was able to put that to play consistently over the first half of the season, and it would be nice for him to go out and have … another nice run continuing to the second half, and see if we can run with that for the rest of the year.”

Dawn Klemish is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Tampa. Follow her on Twitter @Sportsgal25.