CHICAGO -- There were no guarantees made by Lucas Giolito coming into the 2019 season.
Actually, there was one core idea for the talented White Sox right-hander coming off of an extremely disappointing 2018 campaign.
“I knew that this year was going to be better than last year,” said Giolito following a 2-0 victory over the Indians Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field. “That’s about it.”
“Better” would be a vast understatement at this point.
Giolito extended his winning streak to a career-high seven games, the longest by a White Sox starter since Chris Sale won nine straight from April 4 to May 19, 2016. Giolito’s only setback among an 8-1 overall record came on April 6 against the Mariners. Giolito allowed five hits Sunday -- two by Cleveland leadoff hitter Francisco Lindor -- while striking out nine and not issuing a walk.
During Giolito’s last eight starts, he has allowed eight earned runs on 29 hits over 51 1/3 innings. During that stretch, he has 60 strikeouts and 11 walks while giving up only two home runs. He has thrown 14 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings.
Let’s replace “better” with “dominant.”
“Satisfaction,” said White Sox manager Rick Renteria when asked to describe Giolito’s success.
“He's pitching with a lot of confidence. He's pitching because he knows who he's becoming, who he is. He's trusting it and letting it happen.”
“Man, it’s fun to watch him. Fun to play behind him,” White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said. “ He’s been doing a heck of a job. I could say so much about him, but you guys see it.”
“Unfortunately, he probably was a tick better [than Zach Plesac],” said Cleveland manager Terry Francona of Giolito.
Anderson provided the only run the White Sox needed with a 429-ft. blast leading off the fourth for his ninth home run. The connection off of Plesac really was the lone mistake by the Indians right-hander, who pitched in front of a large contingent of family and friends from Crown Point, Ind. Plesac gave up just one run in seven innings. Anderson added a run-scoring double with two outs in the eighth to pad the lead for closer Alex Colome to pick up his 12th save in 12 attempts.
The toughest challenge for Giolito came in the fifth following a one-out double by Greg Allen. Roberto Perez lofted a long wind-aided drive to right-center, which was tracked down by Leury Garcia as Allen stayed at second, a ball Giolito thought might be leaving the ballpark. Leonys Martin then worked the count full before swinging through an 83.3-mph changeup, as Giolito recorded 18 swinging strikes over 7 1/3 innings and 103 pitches.
“He’s got velocity, he’s got a changeup, he’ll flip a breaking ball in every so often,” Francona said. “Just seems like when you get in a hitter’s count, he’d throw a really good changeup and that really slowed us down.”
“Today, it was a lot of fastball/changeup,” White Sox catcher James McCann said. “We mixed in more curveballs than we have in the past few outings. But overall it was just a continuation of what we've been doing start to start.”
These standout Giolito performances seem to be setting the tone for the entire team.
Sunday’s victory moved the White Sox back into a second-place tie with the Indians in the American League Central, with both teams at 29-30. The White Sox finished off a 6-1 homestand against division rivals, and it’s the first 6-1 homestand for the White Sox since July 26 to Aug. 1, 2010, when they beat Seattle and Oakland.
While not exactly a prime playoff contender yet, the past week offered another indication the worst of the rebuild may be behind this organization. Remember, the White Sox didn’t win their 29th game last year until July 1. And in the process, the White Sox seemed to have found their ace.
“Yeah, very satisfied,” Giolito said. “A bit of a relief after last year. I know a lot of people were doubting me. At times I doubted myself. I went into the offseason with a new plan and the plan is working so I’m going to stick with it.”