Lucas Giolito's major league debut will go down as unremarkable compared to the hype that preceded it, though the reason was by no fault of his own, and though he did his part in the time allotted.
Mother Nature had plenty to say about the first big league start for the 6-foot-6 former first round pick. First, it was a 55-minute rain delay before Tuesday's game began with Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning handing him the ball as the Nats took the field. Then, it was a one hour, 25-minute pause that put the finishing touches on Giolito's night.
Though the 21-year-old only got four innings in, he was thoroughly impressive. Giolito allowed no runs and just one hit on 45 pitches, 29 of them strikes. He issued two walks, but neither came back to bite him.
"He kept coming in my office wondering when the game is going to start," manager Dusty Baker said of the first delay. "It's an emotional swing when you turn it on, turn it off, turn it on, so I'm just glad that we got to see him pitch."
"I thought it would be like 72 degrees and sunny. That's how I dreamt it," Giolito said. "But I'll take what I can get. I mean, an MLB debut is an MLB debut."
The Nationals' top prospect was remarkably efficient, getting many of his outs on balls in play rather than strikeouts. He struck out just one batter and induced six groundballs among the 12 outs he recorded.
It was a debut that spoke to Giolito's precocious maturity that teammates and Nats executives have mentioned since he was drafted in 2012. Not once did he look intimidated by the moment, despite pitching opposite Mets star Matt Harvey in a game that would shift the standings in the NL East. And not once did he look overly anxious with an errant pitch or pressure-induced mistake.
Afterwards Giolito said he did feel nervous in the beginning, but managed to soak in the experience and not let it affect him along the way.
"When I was stretching in the outfield and starting to play catch, I was like, wow. This is a big-league game," he said. "I'm pitching, I'm starting against the Mets. That's kind of where it hit me, and it was all business from there."
Giolito was cool, calm and collected, using his mid-90s fastball heavily early on before turning to his vaunted 12-6 curveball to work around a leadoff walk in his final frame.
"After the first pitch I could have been pitching Double-A. I could have been pitching in front of zero people and it wouldn’t have mattered. I was just locked in," he said.
"The thing that impressed me most was that I saw him so relaxed," catcher Wilson Ramos said through an interpreter. "A lot of young kids come out here and on their first outing they're very nervous and seem like they're pressured and they're all over the place with their pitches, but he was very relaxed."
The only hit Giolito surrendered was a bloop single to left field to Curtis Granderson in the first at-bat of the game. Granderson also worked a walk, and so did Yoenis Cespedes. It was Cespedes who reached to lead off the fourth before Giolito got James Loney to bite on a hooking curve and ground into an inning-ending double play.
Though Giolito entered Tuesday's start with minor concerns about his command - he walked four in his final minor league outing - he pounded the zone with regularity against the Mets. Of his first 23 pitches, 17 of them were strikes. Seven times he began a count with a first-pitch strike.
Giolito worked up and down in the zone with his fastball to set up his curveball and took advantage of a struggling Mets lineup that woke up Tuesday ranked 28th in MLB in run production.
It was an important spot for the Nats, who secured a series win over the Mets and moved to 5-3 against them on the year. And for Giolito, it all happened in front of the most important people in his life.
"My mom, dad, brother, one of my best friends from home, my girlfriend, and I think a few other managed to make their way over here," he said.
"I don't know if my dad was even able to watch. He might have been hiding somewhere really nervous. I think he probably kept it under control. It means the world. My family's been there every step of the way. Going back to Little League, my mom and dad driving me to games, going to travel baseball, waking up at five in the morning, going to God knows where in the middle of California. It all led up to this moment, and I'm really appreciative of what they've done for me and that they were able to be here to see it."
The Nats right-hander said advice from many helped him before his big day on Tuesday, including other members of the rotation. The one message that stood out among all, though, was a mantra legend Hank Aaron once shared with Baker before his own big league debut.
"Dusty told me 'you can be anxious, you can be nervous, just don’t be scared. You belong here' and that’s just what I tried to prove."