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Washington Nationals lose 10-0 to St. Louis Cardinals: A.J. Cole Ks six in four innings...

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A.J. Cole was sharp. The Nationals’ relievers? Not so much. The Cardinals scored ten runs (nine against the Nats’ bullpen) in a 10-0 win over the Nats in Jupiter, FL’s Roger Dean Stadium.

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Washington’s bullpen took one on the chin this afternoon as the Nationals’ relievers gave up a combined 11 hits and nine runs, seven earned in a 10-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter, Florida’s Roger Dean Stadium.

It all started with a solid outing by A.J. Cole, who struck out six of the 14 batters he faced, giving up just one run in four innings of work before things got ugly.

Andrew Jordan: Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo reiterated what he’s been saying all winter about the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation in an MLB Network Radio interview which aired on Saturday afternoon.

A.J. Cole is the frontrunner for the fifth spot in the Nats’ rotation, in part because he has no options, and in part because of how the 26-year-old right-hander finished up in 2017.

“We really liked the way [Cole finished],” Rizzo told Sirius XM hosts Eduardo Perez and Steve Phillips. “His last seven starts were really good for us, his last eleven were solid, so he’s coming off some success at the end there, he’s always been a good prospect for us, but kind of inconsistent. I think he came to camp this year and he was bigger, stronger, more prepared for Spring Training.

“He’s thrown extremely well for us. He’s a guy, he’s out of options, with a lot of talent, so he’s going to be on the club. He’s got the leg up as the fifth starter going in with two weeks left in Spring Training. Nothing is guaranteed. We’ve got Erick Fedde [who] is throwing extremely well. His velocity was back up to 95-97 the last outing against the Astros and he’s flashing extremely good stuff. And then we’ve got a couple veterans that are still in the mix with [Tommy] Milone and Edwin Jackson, [who] are both throwing extremely well too.

“We’ve got some options, which we like at this point in time. Two weeks is an eternity down here in Spring Training and a lot of things can happen, so we’re happy that we’re at the point where we’re at with our depth.”

The Nationals added Jeremy Hellickson to the mix as well, though his name didn’t come up in the conversation, whether it was because the deal wasn’t official yet when the talk was recorded, or because Rizzo simply neglected to mention the newly-signed righty.

In his first start since that signing was announced, Cole took the mound against the St. Louis Cardinals today in Jupiter, FL’s Roger Dean Stadium and struck out the first two batters he faced, one looking and one swinging, before he issued a two-out walk to the Cards’ third baseman, Matt Carpenter. Cole fell behind Jose Martinez, 3-0, after starting ahead in the count in the first few ABs, but got a weak grounder to third and a force at second to end a 19-pitch frame.

After a 1-2-3 second, Cardinals’ left fielder Randy Arozarena lined a triple to right-center to lead off the home half of the third inning, but Cole got a swinging K for the first out of the frame, and a line drive to second off Dexter Fowler’s bat started an inning-ending 4-5 DP. Nine-pitch inning, 45 total after three.

Cole struck out the first two batters he faced in the fourth, but fell behind Jose Martinez again, and gave up a two-out solo shot to center on a 3-2 fastball, 1-0 Cardinals. Cole got strikeout No. 6 of the day (from 14 batters faced) for out No. 3, and completed the fourth at 67 pitches overall. That was it for the righty...

A.J. Cole’s Line: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 67 P.

Bullpen Time: A one-out single and HBP put two Cardinals on against right-hander Trevor Gott in the bottom of the fifth, but a soft liner to second started an inning-ending 4-3 DP that ended an eight-pitch frame.

Brandon Kintlzer blew up in the bottom of the sixth, giving up a leadoff double by Fowler, who scored on an error, single by Carpenter, 2-0, a two-run double by Tommy Pham, 4-0, and an RBI single by Jedd Gyorko, 5-0. Another run scored on a groundout before Kintzler was done with a 25-pitch inning, 6-0.

Matt Grace gave up two doubles in the seventh as the Cardinals added to their lead, 8-0.

Tim Collins gave up back-to-back doubles in the first two at bats of the eighth, 9-0, and a third run scored later in the inning, 10-0.

Final Score: 10-0 Cardinals.