Lucas Giolito hopes to keep strong start going against Jon Lester and the Cubs

CHICAGO – One of the best comeback stories of the year will face one of the most accomplished veteran pitchers in Major League Baseball in the second Cubs-Sox game of 2019 Wednesday night.

As if the City Series didn’t have enough interest already, Lucas Giolito, arguably the best pitcher in the American League, will face veteran Jon Lester, who’s shown signs of being an ace along with inconsistency so far this season.

The pair will go head-to-head in the final game between the hometown rivals on the North Side this year, concluding a quick two-game series Wednesday night.

Looking ahead at the Cubs matchup, Giolito said, “I want to make sure that I give the fans a show as much as I can.” That’s exactly what he’s been doing in a remarkable first half of the season.

He’s won nine-straight decisions, allowing nine earned runs in that stretch with 72 strikeouts compared to just 16 walks. The American League Pitcher of the Month for May has kept it up in June, going 3-0 with a 0.43 era in a trio of starts. All of that has put Giolito at 10-1 on the season with a 2.22 ERA and a leading candidate to be a starter in July’s All-Start Game.

It’s such a far cry from what he was last season when he faced the Cubs twice as a struggling 10-13 pitcher with an ERA over six. Despite seven walks in 5 2/3 innings, he managed to come home with a win at Wrigley Field on May 13 of last season, but he didn’t have that kind of luck at Guaranteed Rate Field in September. Giolito allowed five runs in 6 2/3 innings in a loss to the Cubs, which was part of a month in which he finished 0-4 with a 9.27 ERA.

To put the difference between then and now in perspective, he allowed 23 earned runs in September of 2018. This season, he’s allowed just 20 over the first two-and-a-half months of the season in 13 starts.

“This year, I’m a much different pitcher. I’m all about just going out there, filling up the zone, attacking hitters. That’s pretty much the M.O.,” Giolito said. “I’m just gonna go out there with that and stay with the same mental approach that I’ve had – one pitch at a time, only control what I can control, that’s it.”

On the other side, Lester has had his moments of brilliance and inconsistency in his fifth season with the Cubs. Through the first seven starts he had the look of an ace, going 3-1 with a 1.16 ERA, but the quick start has cooled over the last month. He’s gone 2-4 since May 18 and has a 7.59 ERA in those six starts, including allowing six runs in a loss the Dodgers last Thursday.

“I feel like we’ve played well but we haven’t played well, if that makes any sense,” Lester said. “We’ve just got to continue to show up every day and continue to play good baseball. I think we’ve done that. We’ve had some misfortune along the way. I haven’t particularly pitched well. That obviously puts the team behind the 8-ball on those days.”

If he does so again, Giolito might make him pay for that. He has for everyone else this season, and wouldn’t mind doing so to complete the sweep of the White Sox’s crosstown rivals.

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