Maybe it was his first career no-hitter or the law of averages finally turning in his favor. Whatever the reason, Lucas Giolito once again resembles the hard-throwing ace many expected him to become.
The No. 4 White Sox prospect registered his first double-digit strikeout performance of the season with 11 punchouts while allowing one run on five hits and two walks over six innings, but Triple-A Charlotte dropped its sixth straight game, 6-1, to Durham on Monday night at BB&T Ballpark.
Giolito didn't factor in the decision for the second straight start and the third time in four games. The lone victory in that span was his seven-inning no-no against Syracuse on May 25.
Gameday box score
"I felt pretty good going into the start, and I noticed pretty early that I was able to command my curve," the Santa Monica, California native said. "I was able to throw it for strikes as well as down in the zone and in the dirt. Being able to differentiate the two [types of curveballs] was something [catcher Roberto Pena] and I worked off of, plus I was able to command the fastball well."
There was a 79-minute rain delay before the first pitch, and that seemed to have a negative effect on Giolito. The 22-year-old allowed two baserunners in each of the first three innings. He picked Mallex Smith off second in the first inning and Pena threw out Kean Wong attempting to steal second after he gave Durham a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the second.
Tyler Ladendorf's homer in the bottom half evened the score, which might have helped Giolito find a groove. The right-hander surrendered a pair of singles and struck out six over his last three innings. He left with the game tied after throwing 72 of 101 pitches for strikes.
The 11 strikeouts were one shy of the career high set last June 10 with Double-A Harrisburg.
"I did a much better job of getting ahead of guys tonight and throwing strike one," Giolito said. "Even if I fell behind, I was able to get back into the at-bat with my offspeed stuff. The curve, the changeup, the slider ... just throwing all of my pitches for strikes makes it so much easier to keep hitters off balance."
Video: Charlotte's Giolito punches out his 11th batter
Monday's outing marked the continuation of recent solid starts for the 2012 first-round pick. After posting a 7.31 ERA in his first six appearances, Giolito sports a 2.57 ERA in his last five outings, allowing two runs or fewer four times in that span.
"The no-hitter was sort of the turning point, I guess you could say," the former Nationals first-rounder said. "That was really the start of me finding things and being able to keep the fastball down in the zone on both sides of the plate. Now, I'm just focused on repeating on my mechanics and throwing pitches for strikes. I'm feeling pretty good about it."
After headlining the return from Washington in the December trade involving Adam Eaton, MLB.com's 30th overall prospect admits to being perhaps too hard on himself.
"When you get traded, you're around a bunch of new teammates, coaches, coordinators," Giolito said. "You want to make a good first impression. I might have put a little extra pressure on myself, but I'm over that. I'm back to being process-oriented and focusing on what I need to do to be successful. That means staying on top of my mechanics, my pitch sequencing and going after guys."
Durham scored five times in the seventh and eighth. Rays top prospect Willy Adames, ranked 16th overall, had a two-run double and Wong finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs.
Ian Snell (3-0) surrendered one run on five hits and a walk with seven strikeouts over a season-high eight innings for the Bulls.
Chicago's No. 29 prospect, Brian Clark (1-1), allowed three unearned runs on three hits in the seventh.