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 in Kansas City, Mo.
“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.
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.”
Tigers 9, Twins 3 — At Detroit: JaCoby Jones homered twice and drove in a career-high five runs in Detroit’s win over Minnesota.
Orioles 4, Astros 1 — At Houston: Renato Núñez hit his 16th homer, Richie Martin added a two-run shot in the ninth and Baltimore snapped a three-game skid by beating Houston.
Indians 8, Yankees 4 — At Cleveland: Rookie Oscar Mercado hit a two-run homer off CC Sabathia to break a fifth-inning tie and Cleveland defeated New York.
Rays 9-1, Red Sox 2-5 — At Boston: Ryan Yarbrough held Boston to an unearned run into the eighth inning, Travis d’Arnaud hit a three-run homer and Tampa Bay beat the Red Sox in the opener of a day-night doubleheader.
David Price struck out 10 in six innings for the Red Sox in the second game.
Rangers 10, Athletics 5 — At Arlington, Texas: Tim Federowicz had an immediate impact in his debut for Texas, as the newly acquired catcher homered in his first big league game this season and the Rangers beat Oakland in the opener of a day-night doubleheader.
Brewers 5, Pirates 3 — At Milwaukee: Zach Davies became the first Milwaukee starter to win his first seven decisions in a season, hanging on for five innings before the Brewers’ bullpen finished off a victory over Pittsburgh.
Ryan Braun had an RBI single in the fourth that put the Brewers ahead to stay. Mike Moustakas hit his 19th home run and pinch-hitter Manny Piña added a late homer.
Braves 1, Marlins 0 — At Miami: Julio Teheran pitched six sharp innings, rookie Austin Riley scored the only run and Atlanta edged Miami. The Braves won despite getting only three hits and improved to 5-0 this season at Marlins Park. Miami had just four hits.
Phillies 4, Reds 1 — At Philadelphia: Nick Pivetta struck out six in his first career complete game, Jay Bruce got another big hit and Philadelphia topped Cincinnati.
Diamondbacks 6, Blue Jays 0 — At Toronto: Zack Greinke and four relievers combined on a five-hitter, Alex Avila and Kevin Cron hit solo home runs, and Arizona beat the Toronto.