Nationals: A.J. Cole Auditioning For Rotation Spot In Postseason?

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Sep 8, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher A.J. Cole (22) throws to the Philadelphia Phillies during the during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 8, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher A.J. Cole (22) throws to the Philadelphia Phillies during the during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /
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With Stephen Strasburg out for the foreseeable future, A.J. Cole has a chance to make his case to be in the Washington Nationals rotation in the postseason

Right now, it remains to be seen whether Stephen Strasburg will be pitching for the Washington Nationals when the postseason comes around after his mass flexor strain injury. With that being said, this gives other pitchers an opportunity to make their case to get an October start. One of those pitchers that have that chance is A.J. Cole.

Last night, Cole didn’t have his best stuff against the Philadelphia Phillies. He went five innings, gave up four runs on five hits, and struck out eight (tied for season-high) in the loss. The only two mistakes he made came in the third inning when he gave up home runs to Peter Bourjos and Ryan Howard.

Through four Major League starts, Cole’s ERA is a little high (4.56), but he has 25 strikeouts to seven walks. One of the things I like about the 24-year-old right-hander is his ability to bounce back in games. Last night, he struck out three batters and gave up one hit over the final two innings.

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If you go back to his first outing of the season in Baltimore, he had a similar strong ending to his night. After allowing the Orioles to take the lead in the bottom of the fourth, he gave up one hit and walked one over the final three innings of that game.

It is safe to say that Cole has come a long way from last season, when he gave up nine runs in two innings during his Major League debut at Turner Field. He has been able to hold right-handed hitters to four extra-base hits in 37 at-bats (three home runs) this season.

Unlike Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, Cole has been one of those pitchers that the Washington Nationals can rely upon to give them five or six innings per start and keep the team in the game. Plus, he has faced some tough lineups such as the Orioles, Rockies, and Mets.

With Strasburg’s timetable in doubt, you would think Tanner Roark would get the start in a game two if Strasburg can’t go. Gio Gonzalez would likely get a postseason start, but his last outing against Atlanta left a lot to be desired. Finally, Joe Ross is still rehabbing from his injury and his role going forward is unclear.

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Cole has an opportunity over his next few starts to make a statement that he belongs in a postseason rotation, should Strasburg not be able to participate. He has made a good first impression despite the loss last night. Now, it is time for him to take advantage of getting some more starts while Strasburg and Ross are out.

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