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Dusty Baker on A.J. Cole vs Marlins in Nationals’ 7-2 win: “That’s the best game he’s pitched since I’ve been here.”

A.J. Cole gave up a big home run by Giancarlo Stanton but held the Marlins in check for most of the night in what ended up a 7-2 win for the Nationals.

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

After earning a win in his first start of 2017 back on May 6th, A.J. Cole had dropped four straight before tonight’s outing against the Miami Marlins, a team he had not been able to beat in four career matchups.

Two of four-straight losses this season were against the Fish, with the 25-year-old right-hander giving up 11 hits, five walks, and nine earned runs in 10 innings, over which Marlins’ hitters put up a combined .275/.370/.650 line against him.

Cole put together a solid start in his last outing before tonight’s, however, giving up four hits, four walks, and one earned run in six innings against the New York Mets in the nation’s capital back on August 25th. He also collected a season-high eight Ks in that game, which he attributed to being more careful with his two-strike offerings.

“My last start, when I had two strikes I kind of didn’t place my strikeout pitch very well,” Cole said.

“This one I kind of made an adjustment on trying to get that pitch where I needed it and where I wanted it.”

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Cole gave up a run in a 32-pitch first tonight, with a single, stolen base, and throwing error setting the Marlins up with a runner on third with no one out that they cashed in, 1-0.

With help from an inning-ending 8-4 DP on a Dee Gordon liner to Michael A. Taylor in left-center that Taylor tracked into the gap before firing a throw to second to double up Marlins’ third baseman Brian Anderson, Cole worked around the back-to-back singles that started the second, keeping it a 2-1 game in the Nationals’ favor after they took the lead in the top of the inning.

With a scoreless, 15-pitch third, and an 11-pitch fourth that left him at 73 total, Cole kept the Nationals ahead as they added to their lead with a Daniel Murphy home run, 3-1.

Cole left a 96 mph fastball out over the plate, up high, to Giancarlo Stanton and the Marlins’ slugger hit a one-out solo shot to right in the fifth for his 53rd home run of the season and his third home run in 11 career plate appearances against the Nats’ right-hander, 3-2.

Cole came back out for the sixth at 88 pitches, but a two-out walk on his 100th pitch of the game ended his outing.

A.J. Cole’s Line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 Ks, 1 HR, 100 P, 63 S, 6/4 GO/FO.

With the win, Cole improved to (2-4) on the season with a 4.01 ERA, 5.09 FIP, 20 walks (5.35 BB/9) and 31 Ks (8.29 K/9) in 33 23 IP.

Nats’ skipper Baker was asked after the game about Cole’s slow start and the way he was able to settle in and put together a solid outing.

“That’s kind of been the history since I’ve been here,” Baker said. “He struggles a little bit in the first inning and then after that he settles down. But luckily they didn’t score too many, and he had great command of his fastball and he had a very good breaking ball and changeup which [Matt] Wieters did a good job of calling for him. That’s the best game he’s pitched since I’ve been here, and the best command that he’s had.

“He was keeping the ball down and our offense came to life tonight,” Baker continued, “... especially Murphy and [Anthony] Rendon. They’ve been there all year, but they had big nights. Big RBI nights, which is a big help for us.”

Murphy went 3 for 5 with a double (No. 39) and a home run (No. 21). Rendon went 3 for 4 with a home run (No. 21), double (35), and four RBIs, and Cole got the win.