Washington Nationals: A.J. Cole roughed up in team’s first loss of 2018

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ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 03: A.J. Cole
ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 03: A.J. Cole /
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A.J. Cole had an outing to forget, making his season debut in the Washington Nationals’ 13-6 loss in Atlanta.

The Washington Nationals will not finish 162-0 in 2018. It was highly unlikely at best, but they dominated their way to a 4-0 start to the year.

Then, they looked like an entirely different team on Tuesday night in Atlanta. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark gave the Nats four quality starts to begin the year, but A.J. Cole was not able to follow suit.

Dave Martinez was forced to pull Cole with two outs in the fourth, after the righty allowed 10 runs on 10 hits and three walks. It was certainly better than Jeremy Guthrie‘s season debut last year, but Cole’s 24.55 ERA will leave a sour taste until his next outing.

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SunTrust Park has the reputation of being a launching pad, which was evident when Cole hit his first professional homer, but that did not play much of a role in Cole’s nightmare outing. He was hurt by abysmal control this spring, and it haunted him once again on Tuesday night.

In less than four innings, Cole issued three free passes. Even when he was not walking batters, he was getting crushed after falling behind in the count.

The Braves may not have the best lineup in the league, but they are still professional hitters that can make any pitcher pay for a lack of control. Cole cannot continue to work behind batters if he is going to remain in the rotation.

Jeremy Hellickson is reportedly getting stretched out in extended spring training and could take Cole’s spot in the rotation if he does not improve quickly. He had a few bright spots, such as striking out Ender Inciarte, but there was not much to like for Martinez and Derek Lilliquist.

In more positive news, Bryce Harper stayed hot with another solid offensive performance.

Julio Teheran, arguably Harper’s favorite pitcher in the league, took the mound for the Braves. He got Harper to ground out in the first, but Harper took him deep in their second meeting of the night.

On the night, Harper went 1-for-3 with a homer, two RBI, and a walk. He is now hitting .400 with four homers and seven walks through the first five games of the year.

After the Nats’ late finish on Tuesday night, there will be a quick turnaround. Max Scherzer will take the mound on Wednesday afternoon, roughly 13 hours after Tuesday night’s game ended.

Next: Mike Rizzo's contract must be extended

For a team who got shellacked by a division rival, having Scherzer start on a quick turnaround is not such a bad thing.

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