While he struggled with his command and got knocked around in his one previous start in the majors, last April in Atlanta, 24-year-old, 2010 4th Round pick A.J. Cole came into tonight’s start in Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards on a bit of a roll.
Called up to take Stephen Strasburg’s spot in the rotation when Strasburg ended up on the DL with right elbow soreness this afternoon, Cole, who had a 2.80 ERA, six walks, 33 Ks and a .227 BAA in five starts and 35 ⅓ IP for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs so far in the second-half, carried that success over into his second major league start.
Though he took the loss, the lanky, 6’5’’, 215 lb right-hander impressed in seven innings of work on the mound against the hard-hitting Orioles, who added two home runs to their major league-leading total (194) and scored four runs overall on Cole in what ended up a 4-3 win.
Cole struck out eight on 108 pitches and spared the Nationals’ beleaguered bullpen some work with a solid outing opposite Orioles’ right-hander and 2011 1st Round pick Dylan Bundy.
“He did more than save our bullpen,” Dusty Baker told reporters after the loss. “I mean, he threw a heck of a game.
“He had great poise, great command against a very good offense. We knew they were prone to the strikeout, which he had, but we also knew that they were a home run-hitting club that depends on the home run. And they did both.”
Jonathan Schoop hit a 1-1 fastball over the foul pole in left for a solo shot in the 3rd, his 20th, and after back-to-back doubles drove in a run in the fourth, Mark Trumbo’s 38th, on an 0-1 fastball that was absolutely crushed, put the Orioles up for good.
“The one pitch was a very good pitch, the one that Schoop hit that we couldn’t tell if it was fair or foul,” Baker said.
“He really only made one mistake tonight, and that was Trumbo.
“The ball, I don’t know where it was supposed to be, but it was down the middle and Trumbo hasn’t been missing’em. Man, he threw an outstanding game.”
Baker said he thought Cole earned another start with his work in OPACY, though he didn’t know for sure he would get it.
“He earned one,” Baker said.
“Will he get it?” a reporter asked.
“I don’t know. We’ve got to see how our situation is in our bullpen the next couple days.”
Whether he gets another start or not, did Cole make a good impression?
“Yeah, certainly,” Baker said. “Especially in this ballpark and against this team. Like I said, he seemed unfazed by the home runs, which is a sign of maturity, because you can’t do anything about the home run that just happened. All you can do is concentrate on the batter at hand. So, yeah, our young guys have come through in all departments: Offensively, defensively, pitching-wise. Their future’s bright, and so is ours.”
Cole said he just tried to give it his best on long rest after a few trips back and forth, up and down the East Coast before tonight.
“It’s been a weird couple days,” he told reporters. “My last start down in Triple-A and then I came up to meet them in [Atlanta] and then I didn’t get to pitch there, was supposed to start down in Pawtucket and then they called me and say, ‘Hey, we need you for Monday here.’ So, this is what the game is, you’ve got to be ready and that’s what I’ve been getting ready for.”
• We talked about Strasburg landing on the DL, Cole vs the Orioles and more on Nats Nightly after the game: