Lucas Giolito waxed poetic about the two types of confidence – situational and overall – before the conversation turned to his Chicago White Sox rotation mate Dallas Keuchel.
Where did the struggling right-hander rank in confidence?
Giolito smiled and raised his hand above eye level.
“Very high with him,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago before Saturday’s game against the Cubs. “Yes. That’s one thing that I really admire about Dallas. He had a night like last night, and then he’s back here today completely himself.”
When he says, “a night like last night,” of course, Giolito means the six runs (five earned) that Keuchel gave up in one-plus innings against the Cubs Friday. The implosion added fodder to the fan argument for pulling Keuchel from the rotation.
“A young guy like myself,” Giolito (9-9, 3.68 ERA) continued, “I’ve had a couple real bad clunkers this year, and they eat at me for a few days, like, ‘Just get me to my next start.’ I don’t feel right until I get to pitch again. He’ll take it last night, and then he comes back today, back to himself, same guy. And we love to see that.”
As Keuchel himself acknowledged Saturday afternoon, his spot in a playoff rotation is far from guaranteed. His ERA ballooned to 5.00 Friday night, adding a 23rd home run to his already career-worst mark this season.
“I have been the weakest starter in the rotation for much of the year,” Keuchel said in a frank Zoom conference Saturday.
White Sox manager Tony La Russa said he’ll be tracking who finishes the regular season strong. He also praised Keuchel’s track record, which is chock-full of postseason experience, including a World Series.
“The advantage of a veteran is he knows himself better than anybody,” La Russa said, “and I'm sure the communications going on (with the pitching coaches) about, ‘what I have to do more of and less of.’”
Keuchel’s’ two-seam command down and away to right-handed batters was the concern the southpaw highlighted Saturday.
“I’ve been searching for that for a lot of the time,” he said of this season. “One game it will be there, one game it won’t be there. … Usually it’s a feel. My extension is probably a little bit less out in front with that pitch than any other pitch. And for one reason or another, it’s just not as consistent as it usually is.”
That’s the trouble for feel pitchers. Just ask Kyle Hendricks, the ace of the squad across the diamond this weekend. A notoriously slow starter, Hendricks had the worst start to a season in his career this year before finding his feel and winning eight straight decisions.
“I think that guys are just pouncing on his mistakes right now and making it hurt,” Giolito said of Keuchel. “He’s had a lot of bad luck, too. It’s just one of those years for him where I think that maybe he goes back to the drawing board with (pitching coach Ethan Katz) and maybe homes in on a couple things.
“But I think he’s very close to being the Dallas Keuchel we expect. It’s just a few adjustments for him.”
There are five weeks left in the regular season, leaving roughly half a dozen starts for Keuchel before the White Sox have to finalize their playoff rotation.