With four runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth, the Washington Nationals rallied from a 2-0 deficit in what ended up a 6-2 Grapefruit League win over the Atlanta Braves in Lake Buena Vista, FL’s Champion Stadium.
A.J. Cole tossed two scoreless for the Nats in his first outing of the Spring, then a parade of relievers followed with Austin Voth giving up two runs before lefties Enny Romero and Bryan Harper, and right-handers Jimmy Cordero, Austin Adams, David Goforth, and Cesar Vargas kept the Braves off the board after the third.
Kelvin Gutierrez (RBI single), Spencer Kieboom (two-run single), and Brian Goodwin (RBI groundout) drove in runs in the fifth inning and Andrew Stevenson (two-run double) put the Nationals up by four in the sixth.
Cole’s Time Down Here: Florida-born righty A.J. Cole entered Spring Training as the top candidate for the fifth spot in the Washington Nationals’ rotation. Cole finished the 2017 campaign strong, as Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo noted throughout the winter when he talked to reporters about the starting depth in the organization.
New Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez too discussed Cole as the likely fifth starter behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark when he talked about the in-house options for the rotation.
“Obviously,” Martinez said, “if A.J. goes out there and does what he’s capable of doing — he threw a bullpen today, and he was phenomenal, I mean, he really was, and that was fun to see and very exciting, a fifth starter with that kind of arm and the way he pitched last year, finished up the season, he’s got the upper hand, but like I said, Spring Training is long, my biggest concern is that he comes out of here and he’s healthy and ready to go.”
In his first Grapefruit League outing of 2018, Cole worked around a two-out walk (to Johan Camargo) and single (by Nick Markakis) in the bottom of the first inning, with a backwards K from Charlie Culberson ending the home half of the inning.
Brian Goodwin misplayed a long fly to center in the second into a double, with the ball in and out of his glove as he tracked it back toward the outfield wall. Cole recorded back-to-back Ks, however, stranding the third runner to reach base. That was it for Cole, who got positive reviews from those on hand in Lake Buena Vista, FL:
A.J. Cole's spring debut: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 3 K. 34 pitches, 22. Fastball sat 91-92. Breaking stuff looked sharp.— Jorge Castillo (@jorgecastillo) March 1, 2018
Much better stuff from A.J. Cole in the 2nd inning. Threw first-pitch strikes to all 4 batters, recorded a couple of K's on breaking balls. Gave up a long double to Rio Ruiz, but Brian Goodwin had the ball in his glove for a moment.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) March 1, 2018
Voth, V-O-T-H, not Voth: Austin Voth took over on the mound for the Nationals in the third, and gave up a leadoff single by Ender Inciarte, who promptly stole second base and then scored on the second of two groundouts that moved him around the bases, 1-0 ATL.
Markakis, Culberson, and Christian Colon hit back-to-back-to-back, two-out singles off of Voth later in the home-half of the third, adding another run, 2-0, before the righty ended the inning.
Enny Time, Enny Place: Enny Romero got an inning-ending double play grounder out of Ender Inciarte after giving up a one-out single in the Braves’ fourth.
M-A-R-M-O-L-E-J-O-S [DING!]: Nationals’ prospect Jose Marmolejos doubled on a liner to center off righty Kyle Wright in the top of the fifth inning, then an error by ATL shortstop Christian Colon, and a misplay by the Braves on a weak pop toward first that dropped in for a hit, brought the Nationals’ left-handed hitting first baseman around for the Nats’ first run of the game, 2-1. Two batters later, with the bases loaded after a walk and another hit, Spencer Kieboom hit a two-run, go-ahead single to center to put the Nationals on top, 3-2. Goodwin drove in one more run with an RBI groundout, 4-2.
One inning later, after a single to center by Victor Robles a walk by Marmolejos, Andrew Stevenson hit a two-run double off veteran reliever Peter Moylan to put the Nationals up by four, 6-2.
Bullpen: Nationals’ relievers Bryan Harper, Jimmy Cordero, and Austin Adams completed scoreless frames in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings, respectively, to keep it at 6-2.
David Goforth, the seventh pitcher of the day for the Nationals, retired the Braves in order in the eighth, and Cesar Vargas worked around a two-out double and a walk in the ninth to end it.
Final Score: 6-2 Nationals.