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Nationals drop 8-2 decision to Astros: A.J. Cole struggles in Nationals’ loss to ‘Stros

Coming off a solid outing last week, A.J. Cole struggled with his command this afternoon in what ended up an 8-2 Nationals’ loss to the Astros.

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at Houston Astros Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

After tossing four scoreless innings last time out, in his third Grapefruit League start, A.J. Cole took the mound against the Houston Astros this afternoon and struggled.

Cole gave up six hits, two of them home runs, three walks and seven runs total in 3 23 innings of work in what ended up an 8-2 loss for the Nationals.

The outing left Cole with 16 hits and 15 runs (14 earned) allowed over 12 13 innings pitched this Spring as he competes for a spot in either the major league bullpen or rotation.

Here’s how it happened:

Bryce Harper’s two-out walk in the first inning this afternoon was his 5th of the Spring in 12 games. He walked again in his second plate appearance, but he was stranded both times.

Cole retired the first two batters he faced this afternoon, but Astros’ catcher Brian McCann took the Nationals’ starter deep to right for a solo home run that gave the home team a 1-0 lead early. Harper tracked McCann’s blast to the wall, but couldn’t make the catch. [ed. note - “See picture above.”]

Ryan Zimmerman stepped to the plate for the first time today with one out in the second 0 for 17 on the Spring and beat out a grounder to third for his first hit of the Spring. 1 for 18! Zimmerman collected his second hit of the Spring on a line drive to right in the sixth.

Zimmerman scored after singling in the second when Grapefruit League sensation Michael A. Taylor hit a two-out, opposite field line drive to right field, 1-1.

Taylor (14 for 30) scored on an opposite field RBI single by Stephen Drew, 2-1.

Cole worked around a two-out walk and single in the second, stranding both runners and preserving the Nationals’ 2-1 lead. George Springer and Brian McCann hit leadoff and one-out singles, respectively, in the third, and a walk to Evan Gattis loaded them up for Yulieski Gurriel, who worked the count full and took ball four to force in the tying run, 2-2.

Teoscar Hernandez hit a sac fly to center in the next at bat as the Astros took the lead, 3-2. Jon Kemmer followed with his first home run in Grapefruit League action, a three-run blast that made it 6-2 ‘Stros.

Cole came back out in the fourth, but was replaced after recording two outs, having given up a one-out single, by Springer, who came around to score on an RBI double by McCann off Sammy Solis, 7-2 Astros.

Solis gave up a leadoff double by Yulieski Gurriel in the first at bat of the Astros’ fifth and a one-out walk, but completed a scoreless frame.

Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman hit back-to-back, one-out doubles off Astros’ righty Ken Giles in the sixth, but both runners were stranded two outs later.

Joe Nathan worked around a one-out walk in the sixth. Braulio Lara worked around a two-out single in the seventh.

Jeremy Guthrie gave up a one-out walk in the eighth, but appeared to be on his way to a scoreless frame when the Nationals let a fly to left by Jon Singleton fall in for an RBI hit with Clint Robinson, Grant Green and Brandon Snyder converging on the ball and letting it drop in, 8-2.

Final Score: 8-2 Astros.