Lucas Giolito made a commitment that, after the All-Star break, he'd look a lot more like Lucas Giolito.
It hadn't been a bad first half for Giolito, but he was the first to say that it didn't go how he wanted it to. He posted a 4.15 ERA as two other Chicago White Sox arms, Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodón turned in more ace-like performances and went to the All-Star Game.
Giolito remained the ace of the staff, he earned that title. But baseball is a "what have you done for me lately" world, and as White Sox fans speculated what the rotation might look like come playoff time, Lynn and Rodón were the ones getting their votes of confidence for the most important games of the season.
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Well, Giolito has done what he said he was going to do. And since the All-Star break, he's looked every bit the White Sox ace, every bit the pitcher you'd want on the bump in Game 1 of a playoff series.
"After the break, I wanted to come back more focused, (with) a lot more focus on each individual pitch, staying in my rhythm and mentality. I feel like I'm doing that," Giolito said. "Whether the results are good or bad, I feel like these three starts since the break have been a lot more myself. I'm executing a lot better."
Giolito threw a complete game with just one run allowed against the Houston Astros in his first second-half start. He followed that up with six innings of one-run ball against the Milwaukee Brewers in his second. Both those opponents, of course, are first-place clubs, the kinds of lineups the White Sox will see come October. And Giolito dominated.
He did it again Wednesday, and while the Kansas City Royals are not where the Astros or Brewers are in the standings, Giolito still managed to impress. He looked like the pitcher who no-hit the Pittsburgh Pirates last summer. And for a while, he looked like he would do the same to a Royals team he's pitched so well against throughout his career.
A swinging bunt that went for an infield single ended the no-hit watch in the fifth inning. And despite throwing just 80 pitches, Giolito was lifted before an out was recorded in the seventh, sloppy defense, a run-scoring situation and hot conditions in Kansas City teaming to force his exit.
While Aaron Bummer and Michael Kopech took the baton and turned in terrific relief efforts in the seventh and eighth innings, Liam Hendriks blew the save in the ninth, surrendering a game-tying homer to Salvador Pérez. The Royals broke the tie with a walk-off single in the 10th for a 3-2 win.
But that didn't take anything away from Giolito's performance through six shutout frames.
He turned in his third straight outing of at least six innings and just one run allowed, his second-half ERA at 1.29.
"He was outstanding," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. "You take whatever the best game has been by Lance or Carlos or Dylan (Cease) or Dallas (Keuchel), that's as good as any of them. He was sharp as a tack with all his pitches.
"So irritating for him to get a no decision. Irritating that we got beat, but he deserved that win."
While the night wasn't a pleasant one for the White Sox, in terms of the result, they got to see another example of a rejuvenated Giolito, a potential preview of the kind of dominant ace they could lean on in the postseason.
Giolito was excellent in his first career playoff start last fall, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics. That wasn't the pitcher Giolito saw when he looked in the mirror throughout the first half of this season, but he's seeing him now. And so are the White Sox.
Lynn and Rodón remain in the thick of Cy Young type seasons and are excellent options for the White Sox as they chase a championship. Keuchel and Cease are no slouches themselves. But Giolito is reminding everyone that he earned that ace title with what he's done on the mound for this team.
He's earning it again as the White Sox continue their push toward the World Series, when Giolito could be throwing some of the most important pitches this franchise has ever seen.