White Sox 4, Pirates 2: Giolito leaves early with injury

Last year’s appearance against Pittsburgh at home was surreal for Lucas Giolito. With only his teammates, a select few of the media, and a bunch of cardboard cutouts witnessed the magical no-hitter Giolito tossed. Hoping to find that magic again and continue his outstanding stretch since the All-Star Break, Giolito hit a bump in the road. Well, it is better to say he slipped up as Giolito left early due to an injury in the fifth inning. 

However, thanks to home runs from Yasmani Grandal and Jose Abreu, the offense and bullpen picked up Giolito on their way to a 4-2 victory. 

Grandal’s hot streak coming off the IL continues. After hitting three home runs against the Cubs, Grandal hit his fourth home run in as many games with an opposite-field solo shot in the second inning. 

Next inning, Abreu continued the theme of Oppo Taco Tuesday by lining out his 28th home run of 2021. Abreu’s 10th home run of August put the White Sox ahead, 2-0. 

Meanwhile, Giolito was keeping the Pirates at bay, but it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. Often struggling with location on his pitches, Giolito often fell behind hitters and resorted to throwing his changeup, hoping it would bail him out. After four innings, that plan was working. 

That changed a bit in the fifth inning. After a lead-off walk to Hoy Park, the Pirates rally started as he advanced to second base on a spiked pitch from Giolito. Ben Gamel was next and got sawed-off resulting in a swinging bunt. Giolito slipped while trying to field the grounder allowing both Park and Gamel to advance. 

Then Giolito’s command slipped. A spiked changeup bounced away from Grandal, scoring a run to put Pittsburgh on the board. Continuing to show discomfort with his legs, manager Tony La Russa pulled Giolito to prevent further harm. With a substantial lead in the AL Central, these are one of those times to afford to be careful despite that game’s result. 

Ryan Tepera got the call out of the bullpen, and he had to get warm on the mound. A bit unorthodox for Tepera, and he was out of rhythm. Six of Tepera’s first nine pitches thrown were for a ball, and Colin Moran singled through the infield to score the Pirates’ second run. Tepera was able to strike out Jacob Stallings, but the two-run fifth inning for Pittsburgh tied the game. Giolito’s final line was 4.1 IP 3 H 2 ER 4 BB 5 K.

That changed in the sixth inning. Abreu and Eloy Jimenez hit back-to-back singles, putting runners on the corners. Those two hits were the last allowed by Pirates starter Bryse Wilson, who lefty Chasen Shreve replaced. An interesting move with Grandal flipping to his more powerful side. Grandal didn’t hit the ball into the seats but was willing to take a walk loading the bases for Brian Goodwin. 

Now the platoon advantage was in Pittsburgh’s favor, but Shreve continued to struggle to find the strike zone. On a full count, Shreve badly missed on his fastball walking in the go-ahead run. Next was Andrew Vaughn, but the rookie missed out on the RBI opportunity by striking out. Leury Garcia picked up his teammate, hitting a deep enough fly to right field for a sacrifice fly, and the White Sox were once again ahead by two runs, 4-2. 

Michael Kopech replaced Tepera and had his slider working, throwing a scoreless inning. Aaron Bummer followed, posting the same result as there was no bad batted ball luck against him. Entering the eighth inning, La Russa went to Craig Kimbrel. The source of many conversations as of late is if the often used closer can handle the setup role or if it’s time for a switch having Liam Hendriks used first out of the two. 

Facing the Pirates middle of the lineup, Kimbrel induced an infield pop fly from Bryan Reynolds. Then buried a 2-2 knuckle-curve that Moran couldn’t help but whiff on for a strikeout. With two out, Stallings hit a nice line drive off Kimbrel’s fastball towards center field. Luis Robert had a good jump and proved why he’s one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. With a catch probability of 20%, Robert made a sensational diving catch ending the inning. 

That clean eighth inning keeps the setup conversation away for a day. Liam Hendriks picked up his 30th save of the season thanks to a 4-6-3 game-ending double play. After the game, the White Sox announced Giolito left with hamstring tightness. A win is always good news, but if Giolito’s injury is minor, that’ll make the night better. 

Game Notes:

  • Yasmani Grandal went 1-for-2 with an HR and two walks. 
  • Yoan Moncada’s hitting streak extends to 15 games as he went 1-for-4 with a double. 
  • Abreu finishes August 2021 with 10 HR and 25 RBI. 

Record: 77-56 | Box Score | StatCast

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Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson is the host and producer of the Sox Machine Podcast. For show suggestions, guest appearances, and sponsorship opportunities, you can reach him via email at josh@soxmachine.com.

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joewho112

I can’t remember who posted it but I saw a troubling stat about how bad Vaughn is with RISP. Just checked an Fangraphs has him at 58 wRC+

LamarHoyt_oncrack

He’s been bad in that situation, no doubt. Hopefully he will relax and the hits will start to come with guys on.

Jim Margalus

2-for-48 with two outs and runners in scoring position.

joewho112

That’s it

joewho112

Also of note, Abreu looked to a little gimpy after beating out that infield single. Given how cautious LaRussa has been with players’ health, I was surprised he didn’t pull him.

HallofFrank

I wonder if Abreu could quietly sneak into a Top-10 MVP finish this season? With a strong September, it should be in reach. For reference, I looked at 2019 MVP voting. Abreu finished 19th with 33 HR, 123 RBI, .834 OPS, and 2.5 bWAR. In ’21, he’s currently at 28 HR, 102 RBI, .847 OPS, and 2.8 bWAR. September is historically his 2nd best month (behind August). With a strong Sept/Oct, he should be sitting at ~37-38 HR, ~120 RBI, ~.880 OPS, and ~3.2+ bWAR.

Playing 1B obviously tempers excitement (and WAR totals) over his numbers, but for voters with an elastic understanding of “valuable” he’s got an interesting case. He’s been durable (only missed six games), he’s got the leadership qualities/intangibles in spades, and he’s led a team crushing their division despite significantly injury loss.

texag10

I wouldn’t mind seeing him get some down ballot votes but even if you just look at batting skill, he’s not top 10 in wRC+ yet. Add in the fact that some likely MVP vote getters are lower in those rankings than Abreu (Salvy and Semien) and I’m not sure I see him finishing top 10 but who knows?

HallofFrank

Yes, as I said, this is all predicated on a good September from Jose. Still, Jose’s 131 wRC+ is 14th in the AL while Correa’s 138 is 7th in the AL. So, a strong September would likely catapult him into the top 8-10.

I do think it’s probably still an outside shot for him to make it to the Top 10, but I was surprised his case was that strong.