WASHINGTON — With Stephen Strasburg joining Joe Ross as sidelined members of the Nationals’ starting rotation, the team’s young prospects like A.J. Cole are filling the void.
Cole’s latest effort was done in by one bad inning as he surrendered two third-inning homers in Washington’s 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night.
Peter Bourjos led off the third with a blast off the left field foul pole and, with two outs, Ryan Howard lifted a fly ball that carried over the fence in center.
“He just made a couple of pitches that he wished he had back tonight,” manager Dusty Baker said. “One homer hit the foul pole and the other one scraped the wall. He seems kind of unfazed by the challenges of the big leagues.”
Cole (1-2), coming off his first major league win, allowed four runs and five hits in five innings. He struck out eight batters without a walk.
“I’ve always believed in myself as being a big league pitcher,” Cole said, “and I’ve got to be able to show that, and that’s what I’m doing right now.”
The Nationals received hopeful news regarding Strasburg, who left his start in the third inning Wednesday night after feeling a pinch in the back of his elbow.
Strasburg has a strained flexor mass in his elbow and the Nationals don’t know when he will pitch again, but Baker and director of athletic training Paul Lessard voiced optimism after an MRI revealed no ligament damage.
“We have young guys here that I know they can throw,” catcher Jose Lobaton said. “Hopefully (Reynaldo) Lopez and A.J. can be good for the team.”
Alec Asher (1-0) pitched six innings of two-hit ball coming off a suspension for the Phillies.
Asher, acquired from the Rangers in the trade for Cole Hamels, ended last season in the Phillies’ starting rotation and went 0-6 with a 9.31 ERA in seven starts.
The right-hander pitched to contact, walking one batter without a strikeout, and throwing 75 pitches in earning his first major league victory.
“I felt like I wasn’t myself at the end of last year and I kind of let the moment get to me,” Asher said. “I just said I’m going to go out there and have fun.”
Asher (1-0) was suspended for 80 games while on the disabled list with Triple-A Lehigh Valley in June after a positive drug test. He made four minor league appearances beginning in late August and his suspension ended Sept. 4.
“Everything’s in the past now,” Asher said. “It’s unfortunate what happened. There’s nothing I can do but come up here and pitch now.”
The Phillies snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Nationals.
Trailing 4-0, Washington loaded the bases with one out in the eighth inning. Daniel Murphy hit a sacrifice fly to the warning track and Bryce Harper struck out.
Jeanmar Gomez pitched the ninth for his 36th save.
Howard’s homer was career No. 378, tying him with former Nationals manager Matt Williams for 72nd on the all-time list.
Murphy picked up his 40th double of the season, matching his career high. He’s the first second baseman in Nationals history (2005-present) to post a 40-double season.
Nationals: “Normally (these injuries) come around very well with treatment and strengthening programs,” Lessard said of Strasburg’s elbow. “It’s not a season-ending injury, but we still need to take time (so) that he’s nice and strong because of his past.”… Baker said RHP Ross (right shoulder inflammation) is “progressing well” and the team is trying to determine where he’ll pitch next with few minor league games remaining.
Phillies: RHP Jake Thompson (1-5, 6.48) makes his seventh career start and second against the Nationals. He allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings of a 4-0 loss to Washington on Aug. 29.
Nationals: RHP Tanner Roark (14-8, 2.89) looks to continue his recent mastery of the Phillies. He’s 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA versus Philadelphia this season. His career mark against them is 5-5 with a 3.81 ERA in 11 games, including nine starts.
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