KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Lucas Giolito hasn’t lost or given up more than three runs in a start since mid-April. The Royals have been striking out at an alarming rate.
Given those trends, Giolito’s latest dominant outing wasn’t much of a surprise.
Giolito worked into the eighth inning and had a career-high 11 strikeouts — all in the first five innings — to win his seventh consecutive start, outdueling Brad Keller as the Chicago White Sox beat Kansas City 2-0 on Saturday.
“Giolito’s tough on everybody right now,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He has changed his whole delivery over the last year and a half, two years. Now he’s shortened up his arm stroke and his changeup is dynamic. It’s a plus-plus changeup. He’s got great arm speed. His slider’s a plus slider. Anywhere from 93 to 96 (mph) with his fastball, with command. He’s just kind of come into his own and quite frankly has developed into one of the best pitchers in this league.”
Giolito (9-1) allowed three hits and two walks in 7 2/3 innings and lowered his ERA to 2.28. He has allowed no more than one run in six of his seven straight wins. Giolito went 10-13 with a 6.13 ERA in 2018, his first full season.
The hottest pitcher in baseball said he was merely executing catcher James McCann’s game plan.
“I threw a lot of fastballs and sliders, because I’m usually fastball/changeup heavy,” Giolito said. “They had some righties in the lineup, so we waited until the fourth inning. We were able to keep them off-balance and get a lot of weak contact.”
Or no contact at all.
Giolito recorded eight consecutive outs via strikeout from the start of the second inning until he retired Nicky Lopez on a foul pop to end the fourth. Then he struck out the side again in a perfect fifth.
The Royals have seen him more than anyone — he’s 3-0 with a 1.96 ERA in four starts against Kansas City this season.
“His numbers don’t lie,” Keller said. “He’s been throwing the ball really, really well. You know it’s going to be a low-scoring game. You just try to limit them as much as possible.”
Rookie Eloy Jiménez hit a two-run homer in the second inning off Keller (3-8), who otherwise was nearly as good as Giolito. Jiménez’s blast snapped a 42-inning homerless streak for Keller, who worked eight innings, allowing two runs on five hits. He walked one and struck out four.
“Keller did a nice job minimizing damage, holding us to two runs,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “It was a pitching duel on both sides. It was a nice game.”
The Royals reached double figures in strikeouts for the 10th time in their last 15 games. They have 149 Ks over that span. Ryan O’Hearn fanned in his first two at-bats, extending his streak of games with multiple strikeouts to five.
Yost was ejected for arguing a strike call to Alex Gordon in the sixth inning.
LHP Danny Duffy, who was hit by a line drive in Thursday’s start against Boston, is on track to make his next start against Detroit. “He’s feeling better. He’ll get an extra day because of the off day on Monday, but we’ll make the determination when we get closer,” Yost said.
The White Sox will send RHP Reynaldo Lopez (3-6, 6.62 ERA) to the mound in Sunday’s series finale. RHP Glenn Sparkman (1-1, 3.77), who was ejected in the second inning on May 29 against Chicago when he hit shortstop Tim Anderson in the head with a changeup, starts for Kansas City. The Royals will try to win the rubber game of a series for the first time since May 30, 2018 — an 0-13 stretch in that situation.