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A.J. Cole mixed things up in Nationals’ 4-3 loss to the Mets

“A.J. Cole kept us in the game,” Dusty Baker told reporters after what ended up a 4-3 loss to the Mets in Nationals Park.

New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

A.J. Cole earned his first major league win with a strong outing against the New York Mets earlier this month in Citi Field.

He held the Nationals’ NL East rivals to one run over six innings, giving up three hits and two walks in what ended up a 4-1 win for Washington.

Tonight in the nation’s capital, Cole was facing the Mets again in the second game of three with New York this week in D.C.

Dusty Baker was asked what the 24-year-old right-hander could take from that last outing that would help him this time around.

Cole gave up five hits and four runs (on two home runs) in the one start he made in-between outings against the Mets, in a 4-1 loss to the Phillies.

“Every outing is different,” Baker said.

“If you think about it, there’s no surprises this time because they know him. He threw pretty well the last time [against Philadelphia], he just made two bad pitches, that was it, and this is a club here that if you make two bad pitches on, they can hurt you with the long ball.

“I hope he draws off it, but the main thing is that it’s a different day and a different time, and just go pitch.”

Part of his success, Baker explained, and what could help him, even against a team he’s faced recently, is the deception in Cole’s delivery.

“He’s kind of slow, he explodes at you,” Baker said, “and then he kind of throws with that long arm back, and it’s hard to pick up.

“The whole thing is about deception. I know people are concerned about mechanics, and this and that, but it’s easier to hit with a guy who’s throwing by the numbers.”

“But that guy that throws a foot out there and the glove out there or does something different is a guy that’s tough to pick up. Deception is a big key.”

Cole tried to give the Mets a different look too, and enjoyed some success, striking out six in five innings in which he gave up nine hits, two walks and three runs, all earned.

Asdrubal Cabrera doubled and scored on a two-out single by Mets’ rookie T.J. Rivera in the third, then Yoenis Cespedes (who was 0 for 2 with 2 Ks in his first two at bats), led off the fifth with a single and scored on an RBI triple by Curtis Granderson, who hit a ground ball by Ryan Zimmerman’s backhand at first that ended up in the right field corner.

Cole’s pitch count was high, so he was out after just five innings, having thrown 96 pitches, 62 for strikes.

He told reporters after what ended up a 4-3 loss that he tried to mix things up with his pitch selection since he was facing the Mets again so soon after his last outing.

Last time out vs the Mets, in New York, he threw 98 pitches in six innings, 51 fastballs, 32 sliders, eight changeups and seven curves.

This time out, had him throwing 30 two-seamers, 17 four-seam fastballs, 35 sliders, five changeups and nine curves.

“I felt pretty good,” Cole told reporters after the outing.

“I faced them before, the Mets, and the second time through they’re going to know how I throw. I tried going out, mixing it up.

“A couple times I felt like I forced a couple pitches in there, but I felt like I made pretty good pitches for the most part.

“I couldn’t just go after them the same way I did last time, so I had to go back and forth a lot, change speeds and just really concentrate on hitting my spots.”

Cole was in line for a loss when the Nationals rallied in the ninth to tie it up at 3-3 before losing it in the tenth.

“I go in there and try to keep my team in it,” he said, “giving them a chance to win and then they come back fighting, they never give up any time through it.

“Our team, we’ve got a great team here and they’re always fighting to win and were trying to put together something and they almost did.”

Through five starts this season, the 2010 4th Round pick is (1-2) with a 4.71 ERA, a 4.85 FIP, nine walks (2.83 BB/9) and 31 Ks (9.73 K/9) in 28 23 IP. So... with the Nationals now likely looking for rotation help going forward... has Cole made a strong case for his own inclusion?

• We talked about Cole’s outing, Noah Syndergaard’s start and more on Nats Nightly after the game: