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For an inning, it looked like Lucas Giolito’s hot streak came crashing to a halt. He gave up a single, a walk, and a three-run homer to Alex Gordon in succession to dig a 3-0 hole for the White Sox before they even came to the plate.
Giolito upped the degree of difficulty on himself, but he improved to 7-1 while keeping his ERA below 3.00 after the smoke cleared.
How’d he do it? With 10 strikeouts, which he racked up via a whopping 26 whiffs on just 107 pitches. More than half of them (14) came on his fastball, which he spotted with precision just above the strike zone. After riding his slider heavily in his shutout, he was back to using the changeup with great efficiency (16 strikes out of 24, eight by whiff).
He also did it by neutralizing Terrance Gore. So many White Sox-Royals games fell apart in the late innings due to Kansas City’s speed — especially during the Robin Ventura era — so when Gore took over for catcher Cam Gallagher after a leadoff single to start the eighth, it was easy to imagine a tie game or worse at the end of it all.
Giolito, however, held Gore close while taking control of the count. He threw to first four times before he threw home three times, and still got ahead 1-2 on Billy Hamilton. Gore took off on Giolito’s 1-2 changeup, but stumbled on his way to second. James McCann’s throw was on the first-base side of second, which conveniently took Jose Rondón toward Gore, who was ruled out of the basepath in his attempt to evade the tag.
Giolito then induced a groundout from Hamilton, and finished the inning by striking out Nicky Lopez on a masterful sequence. After Lopez swing over the top of Giolito’s final tumbling changeup, he pumped both fists downward in a flex while spinning off the mound.
Colomé, who dodged loud contact in the first game, pitched an easier 1-2-3 ninth this time, striking out Whit Merrifield and Gordon around a 3-unassisted from Adalberto Mondesi. Yonder Alonso gloved a tricky in-between hop to prevent another potential speed-related catastrophe.
While the White Sox might’ve loved a couple of big blasts to stick it to Keller, they had to settle for doinking him to death. They scored four runs on 12 hits, and all of them were singles.
Rondón had one of them to start the third inning, and he moved to third when Charlie Tilson’s grounder got past Lopez on the right side. Leury Garcia then muscled a high fastball just inside the left-field line to make it a 3-1 game. After Yoan Moncada walked to load the bases, Jose Abreu and Alonso cashed in a pair of runs with sac flies to tie the game.
The Sox took the lead an inning later with a minimum of pyrotechnics. McCann singled, then moved to second on Yolmer Sánchez’s groundout to first. Ryan O’Hearn didn’t try cutting down the lead runner, and it cost the Royals when Tilson delivered a two-out single to score McCann.
That was the last run Giolito and Colomé required, so the Sox offense won’t be kicking itself so much about the sixth inning. They had a golden opportunity to knock Keller from the game after McCann singled and moved to third on Sánchez’s single, during which Sánchez took second on the throw to third. Alas, Rondón and Tilson both grounded out firmly to third, and García popped out to left to end the threat.
The White Sox were an unremarkable 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, but that’s often good enough when the opponents only get one chance in the clutch.
*Giolito’s total of 26 swinging strikes is the most since Carlos Rodon did it in 2016.
*McCann went 5-for-8 in the doubleheader while catching both games.
*Giolito wasn’t the only one having problems on the mound at the start of the game. Get a load of the first pitch: