In back-to-back losses to the Miami Marlins in his last two starts before Sunday’s start in Washington, A.J. Cole gave up 11 hits, five walks, and nine earned runs in 10 innings, over which the Fish put up a .275/.370/.650 line against him.
Cole gave up five hits, a walk, and four earned runs in five innings the last time out, in what ended up a 7-3 loss to to the Marlins in Nationals Park.
He started that outing with three scoreless, then gave up a solo blast by Derek Dietrich in the fourth, and a three-run home run by Giancarlo Stanton in the fifth.
“He was throwing the ball well,” Dusty Baker said after the loss, “and then the homer, probably didn’t want it down and in on Dietrich, and then the one that hurt was that three-run homer by Stanton.”
“The pitch I threw [to Stanton] wasn’t a bad pitch,” Cole said, “but the other two at bats I threw to him, same spot, he kind of sits on it, I could have thrown something outside, a slider outside, or a little farther in, he capitalized on a decent pitch.”
Cole gave up a leadoff single to the first batter he faced on Sunday afternoon, in the first of two with the San Francisco Giants in D.C., then struck our four straight before he gave up a one-out double and two-out walk in the top of the second inning.
The double to center, by Ryder Jones, walk to Carlos Moncrief, and two RBI singles (one by Gorky Hernandez, and a two-out, two-run grounder to right field Joe Panik) followed, as the Giants put up three runs in what ended up a 28-pitch second.
Hernandez’s hit came on an 0-2 slider up in the zone, instead of down where catcher Jose Lobaton was positioned, Panik’s on a 1-0 pitch Cole left up.
Cole kept the Giants off the board through a seven-pitch third and 18-pitch fourth, and he’d set 10 of 11 batters down after he finished up a quick, 12-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth inning that left him at 84 pitches.
Back-to-back, two-out hits put runners on second and third in the Giants’ sixth, with Cole up to 94 pitches, but he retired the opposing pitcher to end scoreless 16-pitch frame. That was it for the Nats’ 25-year-old right-hander.
A.J. Cole’s Line vs Giants: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 Ks, 100 P, 62 S, 7/3 GO/FO.
Washington was down 3-0 at that point, and the Nationals ended up losing, 4-2, but Cole put together a solid outing, settling in after the rough first.
He told reporters after the game that he definitely wanted to go as deep as possible into the start, knowing there was still a second game to be played as part of Sunday’s doubleheader.
“I’ve got to go out there and get on top of things, try to give them all the innings I can give them, save that pen for the second game in case something happens, you know, so I went out there and gave everything I had,” Cole said.
As has been the case in a few of his starts now, however, one bad inning or stretch has cost him.
“I’ve still got to work on when I get those two strikes, put them away,” Cole said. “And I keep giving them those easy pitches right over the middle, not making them work for it, so I’ve just got to get a little better with those pitches.”
Asked if it was a matter of sequencing or executing the pitches he goes with, Cole admitted that it was at times a matter of execution and focus.
“A little more executing, a little loss of concentration, you know, two quick strikes and then, ‘Oh, I got him here,’” Cole said, “... really concentrate on getting that pitch down and out of the zone.”
How many more starts will Cole get, with Stephen Strasburg set to make a rehab start today, and if all goes well, return to the rotation after that?
With the results thus far, does Cole land in the bullpen at some point in the future?
Cole said today that he’s just tried to make the most of the opportunities he’s received when injuries have given him chances.
“You never want to get called up because of an injury,” Cole said, “but when you do you want to help out in any way you can and perform and give this team anything you can give them and help them win.”