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Nationals “at” Astros: Grapefruit League GameThread - A.J. Cole vs the ‘Stros...

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A.J. Cole takes the mound for the Nationals this afternoon in Grapefruit League action against the Astros at 1:05 PM EDT. It’s available via MLB.com’s GameDay audio...

MLB: Spring Training-Minnesota Twins at Washington Nationals Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

A.J. Cole gave up ten hits and eight runs, seven earned, in his first two starts this Spring, but the 25-year-old’s last outing before this afternoon’s start against the Houston Astros was an impressive one.

Cole, a 2010 Nationals’ 4th Round pick, tossed four scoreless against the Miami Marlins last Thursday, walking one batter and striking out two in a 51-pitch, 29-strike effort in what ended up a 2-2 tie.

What was different for Cole from his previous outings?

“This time out,” he told reporters, including MASN’s Pete Kerzel, “I wasn’t trying to do too much and I had a good feel for all my pitches. Really, that was the key: Getting after them, throwing strikes, trying to get ahead of the guys and not trying to do too much.”

It was the second straight start against the Nationals’ NL East rivals from Miami. In an interview with reporters this winter, Cole said one of his biggest takeaways from 2016 was learning how to pitch to one team multiple times and make adjustments.

“It’s easy to go out there and throw one time through,” Cole said.

“I mean, I wouldn’t say ‘easy’, but if a guy is only going to see you once you can give them everything, but as you throw two times through the lineup it gets harder and the next time you face them, they know, they have a scouting report and they have everything on you, so now you’re not anything new to them.”

Cole faces the Astros for the first time this Spring this afternoon in West Palm Beach, FL’s Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, where the Nationals will be the visiting team in the two teams’ shared Spring home.

Here’s the lineup that will back Cole up this afternoon:

FOLLOW: Today’s Grapefruit League game between the Nationals and Astros is available via MLB.com’s GameDay audio feed.