A 20-y.o. pitcher making his High-A debut and first start of the season showed flashes of brilliance, but was ultimately humbled by batters four to five years older in an 8-7 loss by the Potomac Nationals to the Frederick Keys.
That’s the reality of what happened to Lucas Giolito on Friday night, but it might not play that way to the folks who have only read the breathless hype and cheerleading from Baseball America and others that’s accompanied him since he was drafted in 2012.
The Washington Nationals’ #1 prospect did not dazzle, did not blow away the competition, and ultimately lost his first start of 2015.
Did I mention he’s just 20 years old?
For the velo whores, you can unbunch your panties: Giolito was hitting the mid-90s. He had plenty of heat. What he lacked was command. It’s been written here before, but it bears repeating. It doesn’t matter how hard a pitcher throws, if a professional batter knows what’s coming, he can hit it. Low-A, High-A, AA, AAA, it doesn’t matter.
Giolito was clearly working on his changeup, his third-best pitch. His renowned 12-6 hammer was on display for a couple of whiffs in the 2nd, but for the most part, Giolito was struggling to get ahead, enabling the Keys 24- and 25-y.o. veterans to sit on fastballs in hitter’s counts and they cashed in, scoring four times on five hits in the 3rd to take a 4-2 lead and twice in the 5th (the first run was Giolito’s, the second was Justin Thomas’s) to go up 6-4.
Frederick never trailed after the 3rd, though Potomac twice pulled within one run at 6-5 and the ultimate score of 8-7.
Drew Ward (2-for-5) homered and doubled and drove in two as did Stephen Perez (2-for-3), who also walked twice as Potomac pounded out 14 hits total but also left on 10 baserunners, including the tying run in the bottom of the 9th.
The loss dropped Potomac to 11-17, four and a half games behind first-place Frederick and three and half games behind second-place Wilmington. Tonight, John Simms (0-2, 12.71) makes his third start against Jarrett Miller (0-1, 4.30) for Frederick in Game Two of the four-game series.