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Washington Nationals drop opener, 4-3 to Baltimore Orioles: A.J. Cole impresses in loss

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A.J. Cole put together an impressive outing, but the Baltimore Orioles bashed their way to a 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals in OPACY.

Washington Nationals v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

A.J. Cole got the call tonight to make his second major league start, and his first since his sort-of-disastrous (9 H, 9 R, 4 ER in 2.0 IP) MLB debut last season in Atlanta.

He was much sharper this time around, but the hard-hitting Baltimore Orioles bashed their way to a 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals in the first of two in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Here’s how it happened:

Cole, 24, a 2010 4th Round pick by Washington, took Stephen Strasburg’s turn in the rotation when the Nationals placed their ‘09 No. 1 overall pick on the 15-Day DL early this afternoon with right elbow soreness.

Asked if he had any advice for his starter before the game, Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker said hadn’t yet spoken to Cole, but would tell him the usual.

“I just say, ‘Hey, man, same game, go pitch.’ You can talk all you want to, but talk is cheap.”

Cole took the mound with a 1-0 lead courtesy of Trea Turner, who walked, stole second and scored on an RBI single to center by second baseman Daniel Murphy, and got off to a solid start, striking out four of the first seven batters he faced in two scoreless and hitless.

The Orioles’ first hit, however was a solo home run to left field by Jonathan Schoop, who took a 1-1 fastball for a ride, sending a towering shot over the pole and into the left field stands. 1-1 in the 3rd. Schoop’s 20th.

Anthony Rendon’s 16th put the Nationals back on top. Rendon lined an 0-1 change into the left field seats to start the fourth and make it 2-1 Nats.

That lead didn’t last long as Manny Machado and Chris Davis hit back-to-back doubles off Cole to start the O’s fourth, with Macado coming around on Davis’s 18th two-base hit.

Mark Trumbo followed with a two-run shot to left, demolishing an 0-1 fastball. 4-2 Orioles on Trumbo’s 38th.

It was still 4-2 O’s after six as both starters settled in and kept the opposing bats at bay.

Dylan Bundy’s Line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 94 P, 58 S, 3/4 GO/FO.

Mychal Givens took over on the mound for the Orioles in the seventh and gave up a solo shot to left-center by Danny Espinosa in the first at bat of the frame.

Espinosa jacked a 3-2 fastball and sent his 19th of 2016 overall the wall to get the Nats within one, 4-3 O’s.

It was Espinosa’s first HR in 156 plate appearances (over 39 games) going back to July 3rd.

Cole came back out for the bottom of the seventh at 94 pitches and retired the side in order in a 14-pitch frame that left him at 108 total.

A.J. Cole’s Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 8 Ks, 2 HRs, 108 P, 67 S, 4/6 GO/FO.

The Nationals stranded two in the eighth when Ryan Zimmerman K’d swinging on a 2-2 splitter from Brad Brach.

O’s closer Zach Britton came on in the ninth and closed it out. Save No. 38. 4-3 Orioles in the series opener in OPACY.

Nationals now 73-51

NATS NOTES:

  • Washington’s 73-50 record heading into this week’s home-and-home series with Baltimore was the second-best on the majors, behind only the Chicago Cubs (78-45).
  • Baltimore is 40-22 at home in Oriole Park at Camden Yards
  • The Orioles’ 67-56 record overall had them in third place in the American League East heading into play tonight in OPACY.
  • The Orioles took the series with the Nationals last season, 4-2, and Baltimore leads the all-time series, 39-32.
  • The Nationals’ + 145 run differential was the second-best in the majors as well, behind, again, the Cubs (+208).
  • In today’s Nats-themed “Fun with Arbitrary End Points” segment: Bryce Harper is 12 for 30 (.400 AVG) with three doubles, two home runs, 11 RBIs and eight walks... since August 14th, when he returned from a few games off for a neck issue.
  • The Nationals, as a team, have hit 11 pinch hit home runs this season, good for second in the NL.
  • Orioles’ hitters lead the majors with 192 home runs on the year heading into the four-game home-and-home series with the Nationals.
  • Daniel Murphy started the night leading the NL in AVG (tied, .345), SLG (.607), OPS (.996), multi-hit games (47), and go-ahead RBIs (tied, 28).
  • In a bonus Nationals-themed “Fun with Arbitrary End Points” segment: Anthony Rendon is 37 for 11 (.333 AVG), with 12 doubles, six home runs, 11 walks and 20 runs scored in 126 PAs... since July 16th.
  • Trea Turner is 18 for 51 (.353 AVG) with four doubles, two home runs, five steals and 14 runs scored in his last 11 games.
  • Orioles’ closer Zach Britton has made 42-straight relief appearances without allowing a run, going back to May 5th.

Nationals now 73-51