CHICAGO – Lucas Giolito has been billed as a big part of the rebuilding plan for the Chicago White Sox.
He's starting to live up to expectations.
The rookie right-hander pitched seven strong innings and Avisail Garcia drove in three runs with his 18th homer and a double to lead the Chicago White Sox past the fading Kansas City Royals 8-1 on Sunday.
Kevan Smith had a solo homer and a single for two RBIs as Chicago took two of three from the Royals and dropped them 5½ games behind Minnesota for the second AL wild card. Kansas City has seven games left.
The 23-year-old Giolito (3-3) allowed five hits while striking out five and walking none in his 11th major league start. Acquired from Washington with two other top pitching prospects last December, the 6-foot-6 Giolito has given up just four runs over 20 innings in his last three outings.
He thinks he can keep it up.
"I'd say that just the confidence and everything is right where it needs to be, so I'm going to continue to try and pitch like I am," Giolito said. "I trust my stuff. I trust my pitches."
Chicago manager Rick Renteria has been impressed, even if he isn't ready to pencil in Giolito at the top of the rotation for next season.
"We're really happy with the way he's progressed," Renteria said. "Obviously, he attacks the strike zone.
"I think it was a 2-to-1 ratio of strikes today, something like that. He gets after it."
Lorenzo Cain's homer on a high curveball in the fourth was the only run off Giolito, who threw 65 of 98 pitches for strikes.
Royals starter Ian Kennedy (4-13) allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings as he lost his seventh straight decision. The right-hander hasn't won since July 26 at Detroit.
"When you hear the score, didn't reflect what the stat line shows," Kennedy said. "I felt better than the results."
Manager Ned Yost agreed, even if the Royals' playoff hopes were all but dashed.
"I felt like (Kennedy) was much, much better," Yost said, "but we just couldn't generate any offense off Giolito."
Chicago's Tim Anderson singled twice to extend his career-high hitting streak to 15 games.
Garcia hit a two-run shot to right-center in the first to give Chicago a 2-0 lead.
Cain led off the fourth a drive into the bullpen in left to cut it to 2-1, but Smith lofted a solo shot in the bottom half.
Yolmer Sanchez doubled home Adam Engel in the fifth to make it 4-1. Smith singled in Anderson from second in the sixth.
The White Sox broke it open with three runs in the seventh. Garcia's double to the corner in right drove in the first one. Mike Moustakas' error at third base allowed two more to score.
Garcia shed 18 pounds heading into this season and his offensive stats continue to reach new highs. The 26-year-old right fielder boosted his career-best totals to 18 homers and 80 RBIs. He's batting .331.
FIVE AND COUNTING
Kennedy rejoined the team Saturday after being away for the birth of his fifth child, Isaac. He is the first boy for Kennedy and his wife, Allison.
White Sox 1B/DH Jose Abreu didn't start due to sore a left shin and is day to day. The slugger was the DH on Saturday when he drove in two runs to reach the 100-RBI mark for the fourth straight season. Abreu is just the third major leaguer to begin his career with four straight seasons of at least 25 homers and 100 RBIs, joining Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols.
Royals: Rookie RHP Jakob Junis (8-2, 4.05 ERA) faces Yankees LHP CC Sabathia (12-5, 3.81) in New York for an afternoon game that's a makeup of a May 25 rainout. The Royals return to Kansas City to open a three-game series with Detroit on Tuesday.
White Sox: RHP James Shields (4-7, 5.40) starts Monday night against Angels righty Ricky Nolasco (6-14, 5.06) to begin a four-game series.
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