Washington Nationals: A.J. Cole comes out firing

rjuckett
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 11: Starting pitcher A.J. Cole
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 11: Starting pitcher A.J. Cole /
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Washington Nationals starter A.J. Cole did what he had to in a tough 5-3 extra-inning loss to the Atlanta Braves. A strong battle all the way around.

As hard as they tried, the Washington Nationals could not sweep the Atlanta Braves Wednesday afternoon.

But, in their 5-3 12-inning loss, there are positives to take.

COLE RIGHTS THE SHIP

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A first-inning home run to Ozzie Albies on the third pitch of the game spelled potential trouble for A.J. Cole. But, he buckled down after, including a solo foul-pole shot by Kurt Suzuki, and delivered 5.1 good innings on the mound.

His fastball hit 93. Cole’s pitches had movement. If you wanted to see progress, you did. For a pitcher struggling once he falls behind or puts runners on, he battled.

Cole whiffed five while scattering three hits and two walks. Only when tiring in the sixth did he nibble. In 76 pitches, 47 found the strike zone. From a fifth starter, you take this and run.

If you are a Cole fan, and there are a few of you, you must be thrilled to see him throw with confidence. He believed in his stuff and was effective.

This performance should buy him another start. Jeremy Hellickson’s first opt-out is May 1. If Cole can get on a roll, use him. You have depth in Syracuse with Erick Fedde and Tommy Milone too.

BATTLING NATS

Three times today, Washington trailed late. Twice, they tied it.

Matt Adams solo shot in the ninth forced extras and Howie Kendrick’s 11th inning double extended the game. They forced Atlanta to use their pitcher to hit in the 11th. As the Nats nurse injuries and gel as a unit, they can take moral victories out of losses. Washington fought back.

After six tough games with the Braves, however, no one will miss Freddie Freeman and Albies.

NATS NEED A LONG MAN

In this era of relievers only throwing three outs, Washington is ill-prepared for grinding extra-inning games. Twice since Sunday, they needed to burn the bullpen over 12 innings and lost both. You know the fifth starter is not pitching deep, but you cannot count on deep starting performances every time the pen is spent.

Maybe you stick Hellickson or Cole as the designated 11th inning guy who can get nine outs or try. If the division remains tight, these are the games that make the difference.

ROSTER MOVES

Adam Eaton hits the disabled list with a bruised ankle. Moises Sierra has his contract purchased from Syracuse. Miguel Montero was designated for assignment to make room for Sierra. Matt Wieters is now active as Jhonatan Solano hits the DL.

Next: Harper's amazing April's

Colorado in for four starting Thursday!

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