Fired-up Giolito (12 K’s) ‘on top of his game’ vs. Rangers

4:32 AM UTC

CLEVELAND — Guardians starter Lucas Giolito panned up to the crowd as he crept closer to the third-base line. They were on their feet applauding his stellar two-hit performance against a dangerous Texas lineup. And after owning an 8.06 ERA over his past 10 starts, Giolito took in the cheers.

“That was a very cathartic feeling, I’d say,” Giolito said, “because it’s been a struggle the last … whatever amount of time.”

Giolito dazzled through seven scoreless frames, giving up just one walk while recording a season-high 12 strikeouts in the Guardians’ 12-3 victory over the Rangers on Friday night at Progressive Field.

“That’s the Giolito I know,” first baseman Josh Naylor said. “That’s the Giolito I’ve faced in the past who just dominates with all pitches. His location is incredible. Keeps you off-balance through and through, and it was awesome to see from first base. …

“Looking for him to build off of that and maybe get 13 K’s next time.”

Over his past 10 starts, Giolito had gone 1-8 with 19 homers allowed in 51 1/3 innings. Giolito carried a streak of five straight losses into the series opener against Texas, and he had given up three homers in each of his past three outings.

So, what was the difference? It started with fastball command.

“I really think it was because I was able to command my fastball well, which is something I haven’t been doing probably the last couple months,” Giolito said. “Being able to live at the top of the zone, when I can do that, then I can let that changeup and slider play below.”

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When the fastball was established, Giolito’s changeup and slider became even more dangerous at the bottom of the zone. Over his past two outings, Giolito said his slider has had much more depth as opposed to the difficulties he had commanding the offering at the beginning of the season.

And when Giolito could keep hitters off-balance with the heater and slider, it set the changeup up for five of his 12 strikeouts.

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“He had a good changeup going,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s done that to a lot of clubs. He was on top of his game, and he located well. He used his fastball. He was pitching on the upper rail. … He logged a lot of strikeouts, and we expanded at times.

“You just saw a good pitcher on top of his game.”

In just over one month’s time, Giolito has gone from Chicago to Los Angeles to Cleveland. He’s barely had a second to catch his breath. He struggled to settle in with the Angels and he was thrown into the fire with the Guardians, making his debut after being claimed off waivers against the first-place Twins in the middle of a division race that ended in a 20-6 loss.

But the 29-year-old righty said over the past week, it finally felt like he was able to get his feet under him.

“Now, it’s like, all right, I’m here, I know I’m not going anywhere,” Giolito said, “and the guys here from top down, management, coaching staff, players have been really, really welcoming, fantastic and kind to me. So, I feel at home and I feel like I’m here to finish strong, and do everything I can to help this team win games.”

Giolito’s victory was his first since Aug. 8 against the Giants, when he was with the Angels.

“I thought his changeup was outstanding,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “And even like his fastball velocity wasn’t the best we’ve seen, but he was getting it by hitters, especially elevated. And he didn’t throw a ton of sliders, but the ones that he threw were good. He really pitched.

“I think everybody was so pleased for him because you could see him. He hasn’t been here that long. It was nice to see the way everybody kind of rallied behind him.”

Giolito’s teammates were waiting for him in the dugout as he walked off the mound to a loud ovation. They just watched him let out a roar on the mound after catching Texas outfielder Robbie Grossman looking to end the best performance he’s had in a long time.

Giolito earned a little celebration.

“In a game where you’re up really big, you don’t really show a ton of emotion,” Giolito said, “but I just let it out there because it felt good.”