Skoglund thrust into start for Royals series finale against White Sox

Eric Skoglund has not pitched since throwing 81 pitches in a three-inning relief appearance on Sept. 2 at Minnesota.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Eric Skoglund could have not scripted a better major league debut.

On May 30, he worked 6 1/3 scoreless innings and allowed two hits in a 1-0 Kansas City Royals’ victory over the Detroit Tigers and Justin Verlander.

Skoglund, however, has allowed 16 runs on 21 hits over 7 2/3 innings in three starts and one relief appearance since them.

The Royals would like to see the Skoglund of May 30 when he starts Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox in the finale of the three-game series.

“That’s what I’m looking for, another one of those,” Skoglund said of repeating the success he had in his debut. “To put us in a good position to win. These guys have been battling pretty hard in trying to stay in it. I’m going to do everything in my power to contribute and put us in a good position to win.”

Skoglund knows the importance of this start with the Royals in a dogfight to stay in contention for the second American League wild card slot.

“Especially now, every game matters and every win matters,” Skoglund said. “That’s the way we look at it. I’m excited for the test ahead.”

He has not pitched since throwing 81 pitches in a three-inning relief appearance on Sept. 2 at Minnesota.

“I’m extremely excited,” he said. “It’s nice to get back out there. It’s been a little bit. That’s always, I think, the most difficult part, is just taking some time off and jumping back out there. It’s everything you work for. I’ve got to do everything I can to help this team win.”

The White Sox, who are in last place in the AL Central, will counter with highly-touted rookie right-hander Lucas Giolito, who was acquired in a December 7 trade with the Nationals. He is 2-2 with a 2.84 ERA in four starts, walking eight and striking out 23 in 25 1/3 innings.

“I don’t think a starting pitcher can go into a game trying to avoid bats,” Giolito said. “I’ll take contact early all day, let my defense work behind me. Strikeouts are useful, but I’m just trying to pitch as deep into the game as possible.

“When you get the opportunity to get ahead of guys, maybe they’re taking strikes early in the count, you can try to put them away. But from pitch one, I’m trying to get them out as quickly as I can.”

The Royals are aggressive at the plate.

“I try to stick with my strengths,” Giolito said. “It’s good to know some things off the scouting reports, but I like to pitch to my strengths. That’s myriad things, change-up a lot, throwing fastballs up and in a lot. I’ll make adjustments off how guys are swinging.”

Giolito said he does not consider his September starts as an audition for the 2018 rotation.

“I don’t really worry about that kind of thing,” he said. “Obviously, with how I’ve pitched and how I want to continue to pitch, I’d love to be in the starting rotation next year. It’s not a worry of mine. I come to the field every day with something to work on to improve myself as a pitcher. On every fifth day, when I get a chance to pitch, I try to go out and pitch as deep in the game as I can to give our team a chance to win.”

“I feel like I’m throwing the ball pretty well. I like the way it’s coming out. There’s still a lot to work on. I need to command my off-speed a little bit better. My last start I fell behind too many batters. I’m hoping tomorrow I can come out and throw strikes.”

In his previous start, a loss Friday against San Francisco, Giolito allowed five runs, three earned, on three hits with five strikeouts and four walks. He was ejected in the sixth inning by home plate umpire Gabe Morales for debating strikes and balls.

The Royals and White Sox have split the first two games of the series.

Jose Abreu ended a home run shy of the cycle in Chicago’s 11-3 win on Monday while Brandon Moss hit a grand slam in Kansas City’s 4-3 win on Tuesday.