Cole cruises early, but tight lat affects outing

Right-hander is day to day with tweaked lat muscle, gives up all four runs on homers in loss

Cole cruises early, but tight lat affects outing

WASHINGTON -- Somewhere around the third inning, as Nationals right-hander A.J. Cole was cruising along against the Marlins' lineup, he felt some tightness in his lat. He tried to stretch it out, but by the fifth inning the trouble hampered his effectiveness.

In that fifth inning he surrendered a three-run homer to Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, which hampered an otherwise strong start during the Nationals' 7-3 loss to the Marlins.

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"For the most part everything felt good," Cole said. "In my fifth inning, I struggled getting over my front side a little bit, so my balls didn't have the sharpness they had in the first four innings."

Cole carried a no-hitter until two outs in the fourth inning, when he gave up a solo home run to Derek Dietrich. That homer and the home run by Stanton accounted for all of Miami's runs against Cole, who surrendered four runs in five innings with five strikeouts and a walk. Still, it was an encouraging outing for Cole, who was making his second start in place of the injured Stephen Strasburg, who is still on the disabled list with a nerve impingement in his right elbow.

Strasburg's status is still a bit uncertain, but he has been throwing bullpens and playing catch regularly. The Nationals are hoping Strasburg will be ready to return soon, perhaps the next turn through the rotation, but will proceed with caution.

So for now they will count on Cole, who was effective by relying heavily on his fastball Tuesday night. Of the 96 pitches he threw, 64 of them were four-seam fastballs, an uptick compared to his career average of 58.4 percent.

"For the most part I was hitting my location and it was feeling good coming out," Cole said. "I could have thrown a couple more off-speed [pitches] in certain counts, but the way I was throwing it, it was working."

As for the lat, Cole says he is currently day-to-day and will see how he feels Wednesday. But the Nationals' depth has already been tested with their recent run of injuries lately and after an encouraging outing from Cole, they do not want to lose him as well.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.