One of the rewards for pitching better than anybody thought in the first half is a spot in the All-Star Game.
Another one of the rewards is a certain level of fear, ranging from low-level discomfort to out-and-out panic, when regression sets in.
Lucas Giolito picked up his first win in more than a month against Detroit on Monday, and it wasn’t his prettiest effort. He gave up three straight two-out singles for a run in the second, and two of them were on 1-2 counts. He gave up a solo shot on an 0-2 count the following inning. He threw 12 sliders and didn’t get a swinging strike on any of them, and this was all against a lineup that, without Nicholas Castellanos, is an easier call to tab the worst in the American League.
The bad news is that Giolito hasn’t looked like an All-Star pitcher two starts in a row since Fathers Day. The good news is that he’s thrown four quality starts out of his last five without his best stuff, and his velocity hasn’t really wavered.
Fatigue has shown up in his command, which is often how fatigue often manifests itself. It’s not necessarily surprising or concerning, even if Giolito threw a full six-month season last year, because he reworked his delivery in the offseason.
He also handled a new level of responsibility in the first half, with six of seven starts going seven innings or longer at one point. He pointed to both of these aspects of his season when asked about his lack of sharpness Monday:
If he needed a start to contextualize the challenge ahead of him in finishing out the final third of a breakout season, the Tigers aren’t a bad team to do it against. The rest of the month will be tougher, with starts against the A’s, Angels, Twins, Rangers and Braves if he sticks to pitching every five games before a relative easing in September.
If he can contain his fatigue to “midseason” versus “rest of season” and summon his ace-like first half, terrific. I’m more hoping that he can get to 190 innings with an ERA around 3.50. It’s worth remembering that this stretch — a 5.44 ERA over his last nine starts — would resemble progress at most points of his 2018 campaign. Revisiting the opening idea, as a reward for enduring enough starts to post baseball’s worst qualifying ERA, he gets a large margin of error with what constitutes a “major step forward.” He may as well use some of it.
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In unrelated roster news, Welington Castillo is back, Hector Santiago is the 26th man, and the Sox made room for him by placing Manny Bañuelos on the 60-day injured list.