The White Sox need a big-time start from Lucas Giolito vs. Cleveland tonight

2020’s start hasn’t gone the way the White Sox wanted.

Through five games against two division rivals, the White Sox are 1-4 losing two games a-piece to the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians. They’ve been outscored 36-23. They just dropped both games of a doubleheader against a team with whom they will battle to earn a playoff spot.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria via Zoom

“I know that everybody’s looking to all the records right now, but it’s kind of irrelevant to me right now,” Renteria said yesterday. “I’m more concerned with us really continuing to push and find a little rhythm, and once we do, I think we’ll be able to run with it.”

To put it mildly, the rotation has been shaky. So far, only Dallas Keuchel has gotten past the fourth inning by going 5.1 innings deep in their 10-2 win against the Twins on Saturday. But Reynaldo López, now on the 10-day IL, couldn’t get out of the first inning on Sunday to Minnesota, Dylan Cease allowed 4 earned runs in 2.1 innings in Tuesday’s first Cleveland game, including two home runs, and Carlos Ródon threw only 4.1 innings in the second game, walking three and giving up a home run in totaling five earned runs. After a full cycle through their rotation, the White Sox’ starters have a 12.64 ERA, the worst in baseball.

“Keuchel had a tremendous start, and that kind of picked us up,” said Rodón. “Now, it’s time for us other four to do our job, eat innings, get ahead of guys. We are the heart of the ballclub. We’ve got to pitch better, that’s for sure.”

Though it’s only been five games, this young White Sox team seems lost, and they need someone to stop the bleeding. That someone needs to be Lucas Giolito, who gets the start tonight to close out the series against Cleveland.

Giolito’s opening day start also didn’t go as planned. In 3.2 innings, he gave up two home runs, walked three and allowed seven earned runs. But one start is only one start, and the first game of the season doesn’t define a pitcher as much as an entire previous season does.

Giolito got off to a slow beginning last year, but by his sixth start he began turning into the pitcher who would dominate throughout the rest of 2019. Giolito pitched as well as anyone in baseball from May through June, totaling a 2.09 ERA in those months. Save for a couple hiccups in July, he was one of the top AL pitchers all through 2019, finishing fifth in the AL in ERA, fourth in WHIP and third in H/9.

And baked into those impressive numbers was allowing 11 earned runs in his first three starts of the season. Bad starts that turn into great seasons for pitchers happen every year in baseball. But, one way or another, tonight against Cleveland needs to be the start of another strong season from Giolito.

The White Sox currently sit last in a division that they almost certainly won’t finish last in, thanks to the presence of the Tigers and Royals. But with a loss tonight, their record would fall to 1-5 to Cleveland’s 5-1. The Twins, the cream of the AL Central crop, would get to 4-1 with a win over St. Louis tonight, making a lot of ground for the White Sox to catch up on. Every win is worth 2.7 wins in this 60-game season, and, rounding up, the White Sox would start their season equivalent to 3-14. 

But a 2019-esque outing from Giolito would make this current skid stop right there. It would put the White Sox only two games out of first place and would set up a Dallas Keuchel start against the Royals, an MLB-bottom dweller at the moment, this Friday. If the White Sox win tonight and get two out of three against Kansas City, they’d be 4-5, perhaps with a confidence-boosting start for Reynalo López and/or Dylan Cease.

A situation like the one the White Sox are in tonight is one of the reasons the need for an ace will never truly die. It’s too early to make any verdict on Giolito’s season based off one start tonight, and basing whether or not you think he’s “clutch pitcher” off one start tonight is also a foolish way of looking at baseball. But the White Sox had an ace last year in him, and aces are stoppers. A win tonight from Giolito would set the White Sox back on course and give even more reason to believe he’s truly the face of the rotation.