WASHINGTON, D.C.: A.J. Cole came up on August 13th to face the San Francisco Giants in the first game of a doubleheader when yet another injury in a season full of them offered a possibility for the 25-year-old, 2010 4th Round pick to contribute to the Washington Nationals’ cause.
The Mets left the bases loaded in the first, and Cole settled in with a 20-pitch second and an 11-pitch third that had him up to 67 pitches overall after three.
Another 11-pitch frame in the fourth left him at 78 pitches, as Cole worked around a one-out walk with an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP, and he stranded his fourth walk of the night in an 18-pitch fifth that pushed him up to 96 pitches.
Cole came back out for the sixth, and stranded a two-out infield single in a 12-pitch frame that ended his night after 108 pitches.
A.J. Cole’s Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 8 Ks 108 P, 68 S, 2/3 GO/FO.
“Cole, he threw great after that first inning,” Dusty Baker told reporters after what ended up a 4-2 loss to the Mets.
“We were lucky to get out of [the first] with just one run cause it hit the umpire, and then he got out of that inning with just one run.”
Cole said he took advantage of the fact that the run didn’t score and was able to work his way out of trouble after the first run scored, striking out back-to-back batters.
He also said a visit from Pitching Coach Mike Maddux after the Smith single loaded the bases helped him to focus.
“He just got me rethinking,” Cole explained. “I was trying to be a little too perfect too quick instead of just trying to let them get themselves out or anything like that, I was trying to get them out with one pitch, so I was just kind of being a little too fine right away.”
Baker said it was a lack of command of his breaking ball that hurt Cole early, and he settled in when he found it.
“In the first inning he didn’t have a feel for his breaking ball and he kept bouncing his breaking ball, and he didn’t have very good command of his fastball,” Baker said.
“He found his breaking ball, he found his command of his fastball, and the main thing like I said, he found his breaking ball.”
Cole struck out three in the first, and matched a career-high with eight strikeouts total on the night.
He said that unlike in his last outing, when he struggled to put hitters away when he got to two strikes, tonight he was able to finish them off.
“My last start, when I had two strikes I kind of didn’t place my strikeout pitch very well, and this one I kind of made an adjustment on trying to get that pitch where I needed it and where I wanted it,” Cole said.
The difference he said, was, “... my finish spot, where I’m throwing the ball to -- I can’t throw the ball right down the middle when I’ve got two strikes on the guy, so get it close to the ground, bounce it, just learn the feel for it basically.”
After five starts for the Nationals, the right-hander is (1-4) with a 4.50 ERA, 4.95 FIP, 16 walks (5.14 BB/9), and 26 Ks (8.36 K/9) in 28 innings pitched.