GO-GO GIOLITO: Knights Pitcher Makes History In Hurling No-Hitter

GO-GO GIOLITO: Knights Pitcher Makes History In Hurling No-Hitter
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By Jason Huber. May 25, 2017. CHARLOTTE, NC — A night after having his team’s game cancelled due to thunderstorms, the Charlotte Knights’ (23-21) right-handed pitcher Lucas Giolito threw thunder of his own on Thursday.  He earned a seven-inning, 4-0 no-hitter win against the Syracuse Chiefs (14-27) in the curtain raiser of a twilight doubleheader.

COVER IMAGE: Lucas Giolito was throwing heat Thursday night at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, accounting for the 4th no-hitter in Knights history. Photo by Laura Wolff

Facing the Chiefs, a Washington Nationals AAA affiliate, for the first time since he was traded from the Nationals’ organization to the Chicago White Sox in December 2016, Giolito threw the first no-hitter of his professional career and the first in BB&T Ballpark history with three strikeouts in only 87 pitches

Ranked by MLB.com as the No.12 prospect in baseball and the No.2 prospect in the White Sox organization, Giolito entered the game struggling in 2017 with a 1-5 record and 6.41 ERA. With the no-hitter, Giolito’s ERA dropped to 5.44.

It is the first Knights no-hitter since Andre Rienzo completed the feat on July 25, 2013, which was also during a doubleheader.

Fastball command is something I have worked on extensively.

“I felt solid in the bullpen before the game and going out in the game,” Giolito recalled to reporters afterwards.  “Fastball command is something I have extensively worked on the last few weeks and this is probably my best showing of it. Being able to command the fastball on both sides of the plate and throw the two steamer, it was huge tonight.”

In what was his first no-hitter since his junior year of high school, Giolito reserved a lot of the credit for catcher Carson Blair.

“It is super important to be in sync with your catcher, and being in that groove, I had pitches preset and he was putting up the signs,” Giolito said. “We were on the same page and everything was working and he did a really good job.”

For Blair, a former member of the Oakland Athletics organization, it was also the first no-hitter he had been a part of or caught for.

“This is my first one and it is rare,” Blair said. “It is one of those things that is exciting and it is something you aren’t used to and don’t have a script for. I was just excited for him and really glad all the stress was gone. There were a lot of tense pitches at the end and it is nice to get that against your former team.”

Just two days removed from allowing four home runs in a 6-2 loss to the Chiefs in the first of their three-game series, the Knights reminded the Chiefs why the Charlotte-based club is ranked second in the International League in homers.  Charlotte batters went the distance with three home runs against the Chiefs’ top pitcher, Austin Voth.

First baseman Nicky Delmonico put the Knights on the board in the first inning with his seventh home run of the season and fourth in the last three games to give Giolito a small, 1-0 cushion entering the second inning.

“We had a couple guys come up big and Nicky swung really well in both games,” Blair said. “It is nice to get out of that one-homer mind frame and it gives us a little breathing room early on.”

Given the lead, Giolito retired 11 straight batters and did not allow anyone on base until the fifth inning when he walked designated hitter Corban Joseph.

“It is always good to pitch with a lead as a starter,” Giolito said. “Once you get a three- or four-run lead, you can cruise a little bit, feel confident and make pitches.”

On the opposing mound, Voth looked to put an end to his road struggles. He has a 2.79 ERA while pitching at home this season, but has been unable to find success on the road throughout his career. Voth held a 9.82 ERA on the road this season entering the game and continued to struggle against Charlotte.

First baseman Danny Hayes followed up a single by Delmonico in the third by hitting his ninth home run of the season, driving in two runs that gave Charlotte a 3-0 lead.

We had a couple of guys come up big.

Charlotte continued to add to Voth’s struggles with two walks and a single in the fourth inning to load the bases, but was unable to convert the runners into runs.

As the crowd began to take notice of Giolito’s no-hitter in the sixth inning, left fielder Adam Engel hit his seventh home run of the season in the bottom half of the frame to give Charlotte a 4-0 lead.

Giolito said that the fifth inning is when he also took notice that he only needed six more outs for the accomplishment, and began to just focus on one pitch at a time.

For manager Mark Grudzielanek, it was all about keeping things the same in the dugout.

“You just do the same thing you always do,” Grudzielanek observed. “You let them go in and out as they have in the past and just do what you regularly do.”

With three-outs remaining in the seventh inning, Giolito fell into a 3-0 hole with one out against Clint Robinson, but struck him out for the second out.

“The seventh inning I had some jitters,” Giolito could smile later. “I felt confident going into my pitches but rushed a few. Now, looking back, I wish I could have been at the same pace I was at all game.  But we got the outs anyway and it was awesome and worked out. It was a special moment.”

The crowd was on their feet as Giolito walked the Chiefs’ Pedo Severino, but then he put away Corban Joseph with a grounder to first to complete the no-hitter, requiring only 87 pitches on the night.

“It feels pretty good,” Giolito said. “Being with them my whole career and my first start against a squad I used to play for is interesting. I had never done that before and it was awesome.”

Second Game

It was a tale of two pitchers for the Charlotte Knights (23-22) in the second half of Thursday night’s doubleheader. Thirty minutes after Giolito’s 4-0 no-hitter win, the Knights started looking on the other side of good fortune before falling, 8-4, to the Chiefs (14-28) and lose the three-game series overall, 2-1.

With no team ever throwing back-to-back no-hitters in a doubleheader, the odds were against such a feat on this night — and that proved correct.

After Charlotte jumped out to a 2-0 first inning lead, starting pitcher Will Lamb and Jake Dunning combined to allow five earned runs in the second and third innings to doom the Knights.

“With a game like we had in the first one, it is hard to top that,” Grudzielanek said.”

Making just his first start of the season, Lamb’s struggle began in the second inning when he allowed a single and double, back-to-back. Chiefs right fielder Caleb Ramsey then hit a two-out, three-run homer to give the visitors from upstate New York their first lead of the night.

Charlotte was unable to get their bats going in the next couple of innings and a home run from the Chiefs DH Clint Robinson gave Syracuse a 5-2 third inning lead.

“We got up early and then kind of shut it down,” Grudzielanek admitted. “The win from game one just kind of died down and we lacked a few hits.”

Credited with allowing five earned runs on the night, reliever Jake Dunning allowed seven hits in his two innings pitched, including giving up three runs for an 8-2 Syracuse lead.

“They kept jumping on us,” Grudzielanek said. “They put us away and (kept us quiet). We didn’t respond. We have to get better at that and have to control the damage on both sides.”

The Knights threatened in the bottom of the seventh when they loaded the bases and brought the game to just a four-run deficit, but ultimately fell 8-4.

Charlotte will now face Buffalo for a four-game home stand this weekend be fore traveling to Syracuse for another series against the Chiefs.

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