Lucas Giolito was a little off earlier this season, but on Wednesday, he was definitely on.
MLB.com's top prospect gave up a run on four hits over a season-high seven innings as Double-A Harrisburg beat Portland, 2-1. The Washington right-hander struck out six and walked one.
The Sea Dogs got to Giolito early. In the first inning, Sean Coyle doubled with one out and No. 3 Red Sox prospect Andrew Benintendi singled him home. From there, the 21-year-old shut things down, giving up two hits and a walk over the last 6 2/3 innings.
"I felt a lot better than I did earlier this year," Giolito said. "Everything felt like it was in sync and I was able to get ahead of guys and throw a pretty good game.
"It was definitely the best start for me this year. I felt like I was able to command the ball a lot better, especially the fastball. Curveball command wasn't at its best, but I was able to throw good ones when I needed to for a strikeout. It's something to build off of."
Giolito's six whiffs were a season high, and the biggest one came in his final inning. With Cole Sturgeon on second base and two outs in the frame, the Santa Monica, California native fanned Aneury Tavarez.
"That strikeout was pretty huge," Giolito said. "All throughout this year, I've been having trouble getting out of situations like that. I always seem to give up the run. I was able to get that guy with two strikes and trust myself to throw a good curveball in the dirt and strand the guy. It just shows me that when I trust my pitches and execute, I'll be able to get out of that situation all the time."
Washington's top prospect had struggled through his first five Eastern League starts of the season, going 0-2 with a 5.30 ERA after his May 4 outing against Hartford. Since then, Giolito has not allowed more than two earned runs or five hits in a start while racking up two wins.
"I got out of sync with, it starts with the leg lift," Giolito said. "I was lifting my leg a little awkwardly and I would leak forward, open up too early, open my hips too early and it would make my arm be late. That's where the lack of command and control was all throughout the first part of the year. I was falling forward and not staying balanced.
"I've been working really hard to fix that, especially with my pitching coach, Chris Michalak. We've been working really hard every day in the bullpen and now the results are starting to come from that hard work. It's a good step in the right direction. I'm looking forward to continuing to work hard and getting back to where I need to be."
One of the top prospects in baseball since he was drafted 16th overall in 2012, Giolito had hardly faltered at any stage of his career.
"I've been able to pitch decently well my entire career, and to have a roadblock and this amount of adversity, I wasn't expecting it," he said. "To deal with it in Double-A as opposed to the big leagues maybe a year down the road or whatever it is, to deal with it now and push through the adversity and see what works and battle back to become the pitcher I know I am ... it's good to deal with it here.
"I feel like I've done a pretty good job, working with my pitching coach, working with my pitching coordinator [Paul Menhart], working with my catchers. It's a step in the right direction every day. Every day I go out and work and try to become a better pitcher."
Wander Suero gave up a hit in one inning of relief and Bryan Harper (2-0) surrendered one hit and walked two in the ninth to pick up the win.
Adrian Sanchez drew a bases-loaded walk with one out in the bottom of the ninth for the Senators.
Portland starter Justin Haley allowed a run on five hits and a walk while striking out eight over six innings but did not figure in the decision.
Robert Emrich is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobertEmrich.