HOUSTON -- Of the first eight pitches thrown by White Sox starter Lucas Giolito against the Astros on Sunday, seven missed the strike zone. Basically, it was a performance that began like a number of others this season for the right-hander, who entered this start with an American League-high 54 walks and a 10.06 ERA in the first inning.
But Giolito escaped the first unscathed and was virtually unhittable the rest of the way. Two of the three hits Giolito allowed in his 7 1/3 innings led directly to runs in Houston's 2-1 victory to complete a four-game sweep of the White Sox at Minute Maid Park. But even at the end of a 2-8 road trip that sunk Chicago to 30-60 overall, Giolito's start left the White Sox with a better feeling going home.
"What a great outing for Lucas. It seemed like he had everything working today. He was really calm, composed," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "I know we fell short in the game, but a tremendously positive outing for him."
"I'm happy with how I pitched, for sure," Giolito said. "Something to build off of, kinda making an adjustment after the first inning and working from there."
Those first eight pitches indicated an absence of his best stuff to Giolito. So he made an adjustment on the fly and worked in lockstep with catcher Kevan Smith.
"Smitty worked really well with me, calling a lot of two-seamers, just kind of sinking it in," Giolito said. "One of the big points of the game that got me deep was being able to throw my changeup for strikes and throwing it down in the zone, which I had been struggling with this year.
"I had good feel for [the changeup] today, so I threw that a lot because they were cheating on the heater. Just kind of sink it in there and [let them] put it in play."
Giolito had three swinging strikes and seven called strikes on his 25 changeups, per Statcast™.
Jose Altuve homered leading off the fourth, the Astros' first hit of the game, and with the game tied at one in the seventh, Yuli Gurriel doubled to left and came around to score on Marwin Gonzalez's successful one-out squeeze on an 0-2 count. Giolito had eight-pitch innings in the second and sixth, striking out three overall and walking three, working quickly and efficiently with great rhythm. But the pitch on the squeeze by Gonzalez bothered him a bit postgame.
"He was still bunting, and I was supposed to execute a pitch up in the zone," Giolito said. "It was up in the zone, but in easy bunting territory. It was supposed to be higher than that. So that mistake and the home run to Altuve, two mistakes got me."
The White Sox finished 0-7 vs. the Astros this season, going winless in a season series of seven-plus games for the first time in franchise history. They were outscored, 56-16, but thanks in part to Giolito's stellar 100-pitch effort, Chicago heads home with a more positive feeling than the dismal record would indicate.
"Today was a tremendously positive day for us," Renteria said. "As much as the overall picture is very difficult to watch, that outing for us [was good], and a couple kids like [Reynaldo Lopez] are doing the same things.
"Some things are working, so we're optimistic about these guys moving forward. [Yoan Moncada], base hit on the left side of the diamond, a couple good at-bats. We just keep building."
The White Sox have gone 267 starts without a complete game. Their last one was Sept. 16, 2016, by Chris Sale in Kansas City.
AVISAIL EXITS EARLY
Avisail Garcia, arguably the hottest hitter in the White Sox lineup, left Sunday's game in the sixth inning due to tightness in his right hamstring. He was replaced by Daniel Palka, with Palka going to left field and Leury Garcia moving from left to right. An injury to that same right hamstring sidelined Garcia from April 24 to June 22. Garcia entered Sunday with eight home runs in 12 games and five since Monday.
"We [pulled him] because he felt uncomfortable. We weren't going to push it," Renteria said. "But he's had it lingering a little. He's working on it, doing everything, all his exercises, to maintain himself.
"He's been running well. But if he feels any little thing, we're cognizant of the fact he's been managing it a while, and we wanted to make sure it didn't escalate."
HE SAID IT
"I thought, 'Touche!' [Astros manager AJ Hinch] trusted his man to do that, and they got it done." --Renteria, on Gonzalez's go-ahead squeeze in the seventh
After an off-day on Monday, the White Sox begin a five-game homestand leading into the All-Star break with a 7:10 p.m. CT first pitch Tuesday night against the Cardinals. Dylan Covey starts for the White Sox, carrying an 0-3 record with a 13.20 ERA, 13 walks and five strikeouts over his last four starts. Miles Mikolas gets the start for the Cardinals.