WASHINGTON — Calm and collected on the outside, Lucas Giolito was so anxious about making his major league debut that he kept going into manager Dusty Baker’s office to ask when the game would start.
Rain delayed it almost an hour and then cut Giolito’s outing short, but when he was on the mound he was dominant as the Nationals beat the New York Mets 5-0 on Tuesday night. Baseball’s top pitching prospect allowed just one hit, struck out one and walked two in four scoreless innings and made the most of his start despite the weather.
“I never saw rain in the forecast at all,” Giolito said. “I thought it would be like 72 degrees, sunny, all that stuff. That’s how I dreamt it. But I’ll take what I can get. An MLB debut is an MLB debut and I’m glad I pitched well.”
The 6-foot-6 Giolito mixed his curveball and improving changeup in with his overpowering fastball to silence the Mets after a leadoff single by Curtis Granderson. Giolito was in control of his emotions and his pitches all night.
“He pounded the strike zone very well,” said outfielder Bryce Harper, who hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning and a double in the seventh. “His fastball was good, his curveball was good. I think he kept them off-balance pretty well and definitely a huge bummer that we went into that rain delay.”
An 85-minute rain delay cost Giolito the chance to pick up his first major league victory, as the win went to reliever Oliver Perez (2-1) instead. But Giolito left an impression with his first Nationals start, taking to heart the advice his veteran manager gave him.
“Dusty told me: ‘You can be anxious. You can be nervous. Just don’t be scared. You belong here.’ That’s just what I tried to prove,” the 21-year-old said. “After the first pitch, I could’ve been pitching Double-A, I could’ve been pitching in front of zero people. It wouldn’t have mattered. I was just locked in.”
Mets right-hander Matt Harvey (4-10) wasn’t quite as locked in but was very good in allowing one run on four hits in 3.2 innings. An RBI triple by Danny Espinosa was the only crack Washington needed against Harvey, who was a hard-luck loser.
“It would have been great for him to go a few more innings because tonight was some of the best stuff he’s had all year,” manager Terry Collins said. “Tonight he had things going.”
Harper’s two-run shot off lefty Jerry Blevins, his team-leading 16th of the season, and Wilson Ramos’ two-run double in the seventh gave the Nationals’ bullpen some cushion. On the other side, New York’s bullpen became even more depleted the day before Logan Verrett has to make a spot start.
Each team used five pitchers, but the Mets burned through Erik Goeddel quickly, as he entered in the fourth after the lengthy delay. Goeddel took the mound with two on and two outs in the inning, but he walked Danny Espinosa and was yanked in favor of left-hander Jerry Blevins.
Anthony Rendon went 2 for 4 with a triple, extending his recent mini-tear. He has now hit safely in four straight games, going 7 for 15 with a triple, a double, 4 RBIs, 3 runs, 1 walk and 1 stolen base. He has improved his line from .248/.330/.393 to .260/.337/.407 in that time.
All five runs for Washington came via the heart of the lineup — Harper scored twice, while Jayson Werth, Daniel Murphy and Ramos each scored once.
A day after the Nationals stole six bases against Noah Syndergaard, they went 0 for 1 on steals, with Murphy getting caught trying to nab second.
Mets: Granderson was removed from the game after the second rain delay because of a calf injury that tightened up on him, Collins said.. … RHP Hansel Robles was struck in the right calf with a line drive in the seventh inning and walked off under his own power. … LHP Steven Matz has a bone spur in his elbow and had his start pushed back from Wednesday to Thursday. … RHP Noah Syndergaard has a small bone spur in his elbow but isn’t expected to miss any time. … 1B Lucas Duda is two weeks away from resuming baseball activities.
Nationals: An MRI confirmed RHP Stephen Strasburg has an upper back strain. Strasburg threw a bullpen session Tuesday afternoon.
Mets: RHP Verrett (3-4, 4.14 ERA) makes a spot start for Matz as the rest of the rotation gets pushed back. The Mets will have one fewer arm available in the bullpen as a result.
Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (8-5, 3.52 ERA) makes his 17th start of the season trying to bounce back from allowing four earned runs in a loss to Milwaukee on Saturday.
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