Just about everything is new to Lucas Giolito these days. With just one big league start and four innings under his belt, the Nationals phenom has experienced his first glimpse of the majors. And on Thursday night in New York, he'll make his first ever road start in a place he's never been.
That would be daunting for most, but not Giolito. The 21-year-old is ready for whatever comes with the territory and knows that could mean a bunch of beer-soaked loudmouths wearing blue and orange.
"I know that they have a pretty cool atmosphere over there," he said. "I mean, it will be my first time on a road team in a major league stadium. I know that there's some heckling and stuff like that going on, which is fine. I think it's all fun. It's all part of the game. I'm excited for it."
The grandson of a Seinfeld actor, Giolito heads to New York to face a team he has already seen twice this year. He squared off with the Mets in his major league debut on June 28. He also saw them for two innings in spring training back in March.
Some may call that experience, but it's nothing when compared to the Mets' starter on Thursday night. Opposite Giolito will be Bartolo Colon, who at 43 is over two decades older than the Nats' rookie.
Amazingly, it's not even the biggest age difference between pitchers in Nats history. Back in 2009, Jordan Zimmermann faced off with Randy Johnson when he was 22 years and 255 days younger than the Hall of Fame lefty.
"It's pretty interesting. Baseball is such a cool sport in that way. I'm basically half his age and I'll be pitching against him," Giolito said. "It's awesome. It's an honor, too. He's had a great career. It's cool to go up against him."
It's not just their age that separates them. Giolito and Colon could not be more different. One is a 6-foot-6 prototype whose fastball strikes like lightning. The other is a pear-shaped anomaly of professional sports, a 285-pound behemoth whose fastball averages 87 miles per hour.
The contrast will be obvious and maybe even funny. But the stakes for both teams are serious and Giolito will be entrusted with an important spot for the Nationals.
This is the opener of the final series before the All-Star break. It's four games and only four games separate the two teams. The Mets can gain ground in the NL East and even earn a tie in first place to begin the second half. Or, the Nationals could create some distance between them and their most imminent threat to a division crown.
Giolito will pitch the opener and try to stall a Mets team that has won six of their last seven and recently swept the Chicago Cubs. It won't be easy and Giolito will be pitching on a full eight days rest. That's an unusually long layoff for any pitcher, and especially for one with so little experience.
"I've been working over the past few weeks to stay prepared. I've thrown two bullpens to stay prepared for my next start in New York," Giolito said. "I've been able to get off the mound and feel my release points. All that stuff that comes with pitching, just staying on top of it. But I feel like we've done a pretty good job of that over the past week."
The Nationals are 6-3 against the Mets this season, but as last year showed, their head-to-head matchups are pivotal and they can swing very quickly from one direction to the other. On Thursday night, it will be Giolito's turn to make his mark at Citi Field for the very first time.