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A Cole new world: Rookie earns first MLB win

Righty credits reworked approach for successful second big league stint
MLB.com @WashingNats

NEW YORK -- Nationals manager Dusty Baker had a marked-up lineup card on his desk after his team defeated the Mets, 4-1, at Citi Field on Friday night. The card was for right-hander A.J. Cole, who pitched the best game of his big league career.

Other than the fourth inning, in which Cole allowed a run on two hits, the Mets had a tough time figuring him out. Cole struck out five in six innings.

Full Game Coverage

NEW YORK -- Nationals manager Dusty Baker had a marked-up lineup card on his desk after his team defeated the Mets, 4-1, at Citi Field on Friday night. The card was for right-hander A.J. Cole, who pitched the best game of his big league career.

Other than the fourth inning, in which Cole allowed a run on two hits, the Mets had a tough time figuring him out. Cole struck out five in six innings.

Full Game Coverage

"He is throwing quality strikes, and he is not giving up a lot of runs," Baker said. "He gave us an opportunity to win the game."

By the time the media approached him, Cole had yet to receive the lineup card and the game ball, but that didn't take away the smile he had after earning his first Major League victory.

"It's great. It's what I've been working towards," he said. "I went out there today, not trying to do too much and make my pitches work."

Cole is a different pitcher than the one the Nationals saw in 2015. He was hit hard during a short stint with the team last year, the result of his attempt to blow hitters away with his fastball.

When he returned to the big leagues this year, Cole brought a different approach to pitching. He is hitting his spots, not overthrowing like he did in the past. He said being around veteran players taught him how to be a better pitcher.

"There is a difference in learning the game, being around older guys," Cole said. "You get a chance to talk to the older guys, and they give you a little info on how to be successful. Last year, I tried to overthrow a lot of the time, so I got in trouble there. I left the ball up. I felt aggravated and upset on how I was throwing.

"… You learn with age. The movement of the pitch is going to get it by [a hitter]. So I was sitting around the locker room and learning how they talk the game, watching their outings and watch how successful they throw."

It appears Cole possesses great observation skills.

Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals, A.J. Cole