In 2018, Lucas Giolito’s postgame comments were rife with words like “disappointed,” “got away from me” or “frustrating.” He’d thrown a 6.13 while going 10-13. The White Sox, at a low point in their rebuild, stumbled through another 100-loss season with little reason to think Giolito could be the anchor of their rotation.
On a hot and humid Tuesday night in Chicago, 25 days into the month of August, Giolito threw threw the following:
101 pitches. Nine innings. 13 strikeouts. One walks.
Suffice to say Giolito was locked in the entire night and in complete rhythm with James McCann, who has emerged as Giollito’s go-to catcher. His changeup, one of the most effective in baseball, kept the Pirates guessing all night with his elevated fastball. He even broke out his slider in big spots in the ninth inning to get through his final three outs. On that final pitch, a laser into right field that was nabbed by a speedy Adam Engel, ending an at-bat that Jason Bennetti was given complete control of the wheel to by Steve Stone, Giolito screamed as loud as any pitcher would to a vacuous, empty Guaranteed Rate Field. He marched his lanky, 6’6 frame over to his catcher, pumping his fist in preparation of the first mound swarm baseball has seen this year. The 19th no-hitter in White Sox history belonged to him, forever etching his name in South Side baseball lore in only 101 pitches.
Not all no-hitters are created equal, and Giolito’s was a display of pure dominance. 13 strikeouts in 101 innings is something to marvel at on its own, but his 30 swings and misses are the most a White Sox pitcher has ever recorded, breaking Chris Sale’s record of 29 induced in 2015. He allowed only two hard hits to the Pirates and throwing only 27 of his 101 pitches for balls.
History aside, Giolito’s no-hitter also marked the White Sox’s 18th win 30 games into this season and their eight in their last 10. They and the Cleveland Indians are now tied for second place in the AL Central, a game and a half back of the Minnesota Twins. At this point, the White Sox are almost a sure thing to get into the playoffs, with a 97.6% chance to get in, according to Fangraphs. At this point, it’s a matter of when they clinch and not if.
For Giolito, it’s a moment of arrival. Last year, he was brilliant, with a stretch of starts that hadn’t been by the White Sox since Sale. But this feels like a true moment of arrival for him, where even casual baseball observers know who he is and how special he is and is capable of being.
In 2015, the Cubs, a team talked about in similar ways as the White Sox are now, a team loaded with young talent that had a limitless ceiling but maybe weren’t quite ready yet, were ignited by Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter, riding a momentous wave of wins all the way to the NLCS, carried by their ace pitcher. It’s moments of dominance that Giolito displayed that can kick a season into high gear and, come October, we may look back at this as the time they turned on the switch.