Lucas Giolito pitched well enough to get the fifth victory of his young career, but the performance and the learning curve for the top Nationals prospect are arguably considered more important than the result.
The first-rounder allowed one hit and one walk while setting career highs with seven strikeouts over six shutout innings, but his Class A Hagerstown Suns fell, 2-1, to the Kannapolis Intimidators in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader on Sunday.
"I obviously care about my performance as far as working on certain things, but the No. 1 thing for me as a competitive pitcher is giving the team a chance to win and helping the team come out on top," Giolito said. "I was a little upset, but that's baseball and that happens. I wasn't too worried about [the loss] because I knew we'd bounce back.
"I think tonight was my strongest start of the year, definitely. I had a really good vibe with my catcher and roommate Spencer Kieboom. He called a good game and my defense was really good behind me."
Giolito (2-0) surrendered a double to the first batter, Adam Engel, before setting down 16 straight Intimidators. He issued a one-out walk to Tyler Shryock in the sixth inning, but Adam Engel grounded into a forceout and was thrown out trying to steal second base.
It marked the first time in 19 career starts that the 19-year-old pitched six innings.
"I fell behind [Engel], 2-0, to start the game," said Giolito, who throws a high-90s four-seam fastball in addition to a plus curveball and a changeup. "There was a little lack of focus, but the 2-0 fastball was a good pitch and it jammed him and got up the line and he got a hit out of it.
"I know my best pitch is my fastball and I like to work it in and out as much as possible. I throw it at the knees a lot and I will even throw it up at times. I like to dominate with my fastball, but I know I have to keep them honest. I was throwing the changeup, especially in hitters counts, like 2-1, 3-1. I even threw a 3-2 changeup."
Justin Thomas (1-3) entered in the seventh, and the visitors scratched across runs on Trey Michalczewski's RBI single and Carl Thomore's RBI double. Both hits came with two outs and kept Giolito, who lowered his ERA by more than half a run to 2.51, from factoring in the decision.
MLB.com's No. 40 prospect has had his ups and downs in his first year in a full-season league, but the overall initial impression has been positive.
After allowing four runs in his season debut at home to Rome on April 5, he surrendered just three combined hits over 10 shutout innings in his next two starts. Entering Sunday, he had failed to make it through five innings in two of his past three outings.
"Today my fastball command was much better and I'm continuing to work on that," said Giolito, who dedicated his performance to his mom/actress Lindsay Frost, his two grandmothers and brother Casey, who was celebrating his 15th birthday back home in Santa Monica, California.
"I need to get ahead of hitters and throw my curveball for strikes. I was throwing good curveballs today, but some were a little low in counts where I really wanted to flip them in for strikes. I'm never satisfied. You can never be content with where you're at. You have to have something to get better at every day."
Selected by the Nationals 16th overall in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Harvard-Westlake High School in Studio City, California, Giolito underwent Tommy John surgery on Aug. 31, 2012.
Kannapolis starter Andre Wheeler allowed one run on five hits while striking out six batters over five innings. Jose Bautista (1-0) fanned two batters over two perfect frames to earn the win.