Giolito all but perfect in Suns' victory

Top Nationals prospect retires 18 batters in a row after leadoff single

Lucas Giolito has won four consecutive decisions, with his latest effort lowering his ERA to 2.34. (Carl Kline/

By Mark Emery / | July 26, 2014 12:13 AM ET

Lucas Giolito threw six perfect innings on Friday. The only reason his name and the word "history" weren't being paired throughout social media was because his run of 18 outs followed a leadoff single.

A hit that, if the Nationals' top prospect is to be believed, was something else entirely.

"Honestly, he was out, and a lot of people knew he was out," Giolito said about Adam Engel's infield single to third baseman Drew Ward. "The umpire had a tough angle on the ball, so I don't blame him at all for calling him safe. It was a close play. But, yeah, a lot of us could tell that he was out."

Giolito did not allow another baserunner after that play, finishing with seven strikeouts over six scoreless innings as Class A Hagerstown shut down visiting Kannapolis, 5-1. Although he felt that Engel should not have reached base, he wasn't very unhappy about the development.

"I guess the first guy getting on kind of took the pressure off of, you know, a no-hitter or perfect game situation,"'s No. 35 overall prospect said. "I'm on an innings limit anyways; I wouldn't have been allowed to throw a complete game even if I had one I'm not upset about it at all. There's a lot of tough, close plays for umpires to make. I don't blame them at all. I'm happy about the outing."

Not to mention what happened afterwards.

The 2012 first-round pick (16th overall) induced five groundouts and six flyouts in facing one batter over the minimum. It marked his third start without a walk, his fourth with one or fewer hits, his fourth with at least seven strikeouts, his fourth that lasted at least six innings and his seventh scoreless outing of the season.

Most of those barometers were met on May 11, when Giolito faced Kannapolis in the first game of a doubleheader. Like Friday, he allowed one hit over six scoreless innings while striking out seven. And like Friday, Engel was the player to get the hit -- in the first at-bat of the game. In addition to that double, Tyler Shryock drew a walk in the sixth.

A winner of four straight decisions, Giolito (6-2) lowered his ERA to 2.34 across 16 outings in the South Atlantic League, where he has an 88-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 77 innings.

"I'm definitely pleased with my development this year," the California native said. "I've ironed out a lot of things and added more tempo to my lineup. I've increased my command and control with the fastball and thrown my curveball and changeup for strikes better as the year's progressed. I'm very pleased so far."

Speaking of those pitches, all three were available to Giolito on Friday.

"It was one of those days where all three of my pitches were working," he said. "And I had good command of the fastball, which is what I've been working on for all season, honestly. So everything kind of came together. And my catcher back there, Spencer Kieboom, he did an unbelievable job; I didn't shake him off once. We were on the same page the entire game. And when they put the ball in play, the defense made great plays.

"It's up there as one of the best of the year. I definitely think that I could have had better focus on a couple batters and gotten ahead of them instead of falling behind, 2-0. But I'm glad everything worked out and we got a win."

Offensively, the Suns got solo home runs from John Wooten and Jimmy Yezzo. Kieboom and Carlos Lopez chipped in RBIs as well.

Intimidators starter Andre Wheeler (1-3) gave up five runs on four hits in 4 1/3 innings, issuing three walks and fanning three.

Mark Emery is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Emery. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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