ARLINGTON -- Lucas Giolito, the starting and winning pitcher in a 7-2 White Sox victory over the Rangers Sunday afternoon at Globe Life Field, called this particular contest a turning point, of sorts, for the American League Central leaders.
That piece of analysis might seem a bit extreme, considering the Rangers currently have 94 losses, while Giolito’s crew stands strong with an 85-64 record and a magic number of 4 to clinch the division. But Giolito’s assessment was focused on his own team, which is really all the White Sox have to focus upon with 13 games remaining and the playoffs fast approaching.
It’s also a turning point made more specifically in comparison to last year’s team, which was the first in the AL to clinch a playoff spot and then finished with 10 losses in 13 games, including a three-game Wild Card loss in Oakland.
“We kind of made the mistake of letting off the gas a little bit towards the end, especially after we clinched. And so I think that we learned from that mistake,” Giolito said. “Having that energy every single game, everybody in the game watching, paying attention, picking things out, that’s right where we need to be for every single game.
“It doesn’t matter the opponent, it doesn't matter the series score, it doesn’t matter home/road. Today was a really nice turning point, in a way, for that, where we can stay focused and stay energetic.”
Giolito (10-9) allowed one run on six hits over 5 1/3 innings, with four strikeouts and one walk on a day where he admittedly didn’t possess his best stuff. Giolito threw 97 pitches in his second start of September and his second outing since coming off the injured list. Manager Tony La Russa was ready to take him out after five but instead was convinced to let the right-hander go batter by batter into the sixth.
“I felt my slider, changeup and even some curveballs were good. It was mostly the heater. I kind of lacked command with it,” Giolito said. “It didn’t have that same zip. Body feels really good. I feel really rested. The IL stint kind of rested me because that injury wasn’t really much of anything to begin with, so I feel like I’m in a really good spot. Just building up the last two, and going to be really strong going into these last couple and playoffs.”
“He felt the ball coming out of his hand really well,” said La Russa of Giolito. “He felt good about how his arm feels and he’s ready for more. Keep that up.”
A five-run fourth inning off Jordan Lyles (9-12) gave Giolito and three relievers all the support they would need. The rally began with Yasmani Grandal’s 22nd home run, giving him homers in back-to-back games for the fourth time this season.
It’s not difficult to figure out when Grandal connects on a home run, considering there’s an almost immediate bat drop following the swing. It’s a move from Grandal that sends White Sox fans into immediate euphoria while drawing quite a bit less excitement from the opposition. But Grandal isn’t sure of the bat drop’s origin.
“I don’t know. I truly don’t know,” Grandal said. “I tell everybody I’m not really trying to show anybody up. It’s just a swing.”
There were many productive swings beyond Grandal’s for the White Sox, who claimed the series victory. José Abreu had two hits and two RBIs, tying him with Kansas City’s Salvador Perez for the AL lead at 113. Abreu is trying to win a third straight AL RBI title.
García laid down a 0-2 bunt with Gavin Sheets on second and nobody out in the fourth, setting up the rally. He added a two-run single in the seventh, giving him 52 RBIs this season. The White Sox improved to 36-37 on the road and 30-26 in day games, as they build toward October.
“It’s making sure we’re pushing each other, we’re holding each other accountable,” Giolito said. “That’s why I really, really love the result today and just our overall energy. I felt like we really brought it today.”
“Clinching is just really getting in. That’s when it really starts,” said White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, who had two hits. “We know we’re going to clinch, we understand that. Not too far away from it. But we’ve got to continue to stay hungry heading toward October and I think that’s when the real ball starts.”