The Washington Nationals received a quality start from A.J. Cole, while Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon remained scorching hot to lead them to a 6-2 victory in Saturday’s contest against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The right-hander pitched six innings and allowed just one run on six hits. He fanned two batters and issued four walks on 109 pitches (58 strikes).
It wasn’t the most economical start by Cole, but the Nats will take it. He won’t earn any style points with this outing but kept the opposing team at bay long enough for the offense to take over.
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One area of improvement for his next start is to limit the number of walks he surrenders.
Normally, when a starting pitcher walks several batters in an outing, the results won’t be great.
However, a couple of stellar defensive plays aided Cole early in the game and the Phillies are one of the weaker clubs in the National League, given their 12-17 record.
Cole’s control problems weren’t much of a surprise, considering he walked 14 batters in 38 and one-third innings last season with the Nats and allowed 10 free passes in 19 innings for Triple-A Syracuse this year.
A way for a starter to limit walks is by throwing first-pitch strikes. It forces the batter to be in defensive mode, and the pitcher can get into a comfortable rhythm on the mound.
Cole had just one first-pitch strike the first time through the batting order against the Phillies.
He was falling behind hitters early in the contest as the righty struggled to locate his fastball, which resulted in him not having too much confidence in the pitch.
A prime example of this occurred in the second inning when Phillies’ starter Vince Velasquez was in the batter’s box. Cole began the at-bat with consecutive sliders and fell behind in the count, but eventually retired him by going back to his fastball.
There were some positives as the game progressed. He threw eight first-pitch strikes the second and third time through the order.
After walking three batters in the first three innings, he issued just walk in the last three frames. The confidence for him increased once the Nats built a sizable lead in the later innings.
Cole was very fortunate the Phillies didn’t take advantage of the poor command displayed early.
This outing was marked by good and bad moments, but the most important thing was that Cole gave his team a chance to win, and that’s what you want from your starting pitcher.