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Giolito's adjustments pay off: 'It was time'

@scottmerkin
July 29, 2020

Lucas Giolito gave the struggling White Sox starting rotation the major boost it desperately needed during a 4-0 victory over Cleveland at Progressive Field Wednesday night. The victory ended a three-game White Sox losing streak. White Sox starters had allowed 22 earned runs over 15 2/3 innings and 13 first-inning

Lucas Giolito gave the struggling White Sox starting rotation the major boost it desperately needed during a 4-0 victory over Cleveland at Progressive Field Wednesday night. The victory ended a three-game White Sox losing streak.

White Sox starters had allowed 22 earned runs over 15 2/3 innings and 13 first-inning runs thus far into the 2020 season, including Opening Day struggles for Giolito against the Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field where he allowed seven runs over 3 2/3 innings. But relying on a four-seam fastball/changeup mix, the right-hander shut out the Indians over six innings and 85 pitches.

Box score

“Yeah, Opening Day, I was trying to create, trying to do too much,” Giolito said. “And I know that for me, my strengths are just letting my body work. I know what I need to do to be successful.

“I just have to let it happen. That was pretty much my mental cue going into tonight. It was to be relaxed and confident and just let it happen. So I feel good about this one. This one gets me right back on track.”

It wasn’t a complete cruise for Giolito, who struck out six and walked two. The fourth inning opened with a César Hernández walk and José Ramírez’s single, putting runners on first and third with nobody out. But Giolito struck out Francisco Lindor with a 94-mph four-seamer and then induced an inning-ending double play from Carlos Santana, started by first baseman José Abreu, busting Santana with an inside fastball.

Cleveland loaded the bases with two outs during Giolito’s last inning in the sixth. But Santana flew out to center on a high fastball to end the threat. Giolito threw 41 four-seamers and 40 changeups, with 14 swinging strikes per Statcast. Dating back to last year, Giolito has a 20 2/3 inning scoreless streak covering three starts against Cleveland, with 23 strikeouts.

“I was happy to do that, put up the zeros to get our offense back in the dugout,” Giolito said. “We ended up getting the bats going, later is better than never and we came out with the much-needed win there.”

“It was definitely a great outing by Gio,” White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said. “Bouncing back off that first one. Very strong tonight. And he kept us in the ballgame. It was great pitching on both sides.”

The game’s four runs all scored in the top of the ninth via a sacrifice fly from Yasmani Grandal, bringing home Anderson who had doubled off Brad Hand to open the ninth, a second sacrifice fly from Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert’s two-run single. Robert’s single up the middle extended his hitting streak to six, a single coming after two earlier strikeouts against starter Zach Plesac.

Plesac was as dynamic as Giolito, throwing eight scoreless and fanning 11. But the White Sox were able to grab a rare must-win victory in the sixth game of the season -- a must-win victory considering the schedule only covers 60 games with the first six against American League Central favorites, Minnesota and Cleveland.

“We weren’t going to come out tonight and put pressure on ourselves and look at our record,” Giolito said. “But the way I saw it, our first round of starting pitching did not go well so it was time for us to make the adjustments we needed and go out there and have a good one.”

“If we get the starting pitching that we've talked about since the winter, then we have a chance to play games like this and keep ourselves in it and give ourselves and our offense an opportunity to strike,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “If we play good baseball -- I always talk about knowing your opponent -- but if we play our game, play good baseball, I think we can stand with anybody."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.