BALTIMORE — There was only one thing missing from A.J. Cole’s first outing of 2016: a victory.
Summoned from the minors to fill in for scheduled starter Stephen Strasburg, Cole allowed five hits over seven innings Monday night in the Washington Nationals’ 4-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
Cole (0-1) struck out eight and walked two in his season debut. Although he gave up four runs, the right-hander went deep into the game against a power-hitting contender.
“He did more than save our bullpen. He threw a heck of a game,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “Great poise and great command against a very good offense.”
The 24-year-old Cole was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse after Washington placed Strasburg on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow soreness.
Pitching in his fourth major league game and making his second start, Cole displayed plenty of poise and mixed his pitches well.
Unfortunately, four of the five hits he allowed turned into runs — including a two-run homer by Mark Trumbo that put Baltimore up 4-2 in the fourth inning.
“They hit some good pitches. A couple of pitches I’d take back,” Cole said. “But other than that I felt pretty good.”
Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa homered for the NL East-leading Nationals and Daniel Murphy had his 48th multihit game.
It was the first of four successive games between the teams, two at Camden Yards and two at Nationals Park. The stadiums are 38 miles apart on MD-295.
Rookie Dylan Bundy (7-4) pitched six innings of three-hit ball for the Orioles, who had lost five of their previous six games — all at home. The victory lifted Baltimore within two games of first-place Toronto in the AL East.
Bundy gave up two runs, walked four and struck out four. He’s 5-3 with a 3.56 ERA in eight games since joining the starting rotation on July 17.
“It’s just a tribute to Dylan and the people who have worked with him,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “And most of all, Dylan. Good pitchers are easy to handle. Just get out of their way.”
Zach Britton worked a perfect ninth to earn his 38th save in 38 tries. The left-hander has not allowed an earned run in 43 games since May 5.
The Nationals jumped on top in the first inning when Murphy singled for his career-high 90th RBI.
Schoop tied it with his 20th homer in the third inning. After Rendon connected in the fourth, Baltimore took the lead for good in the bottom half.
Doubles by Manny Machado and Chris Davis produced a run and Trumbo followed with his major league-leading 38th home run, a drive that soared far beyond the left-field wall.
Espinosa connected off Mychal Givens in the seventh. Washington got runners to second and third with two outs in the eighth before All-Star reliever Brad Brach struck out Ryan Zimmerman.
Nationals: Espinosa ended a 38-game stretch without a home run.
Orioles: Schoop’s HR ties him with Roberto Alomar for most home runs in a season by an Orioles 2B since 1954. Alomar had 22 in 1996, but two were not as a 2B. … Trumbo, who also homered Sunday, has connected in successive games nine times this season.
Nationals: Baker expects Strasburg to spend the minimum time on the DL. “Hopefully he’ll be good in September and hopefully in October,” Baker said. “I had to convince him that the risk isn’t worth the gain right now.”
Orioles: C Matt Wieters was activated off the paternity list and Caleb Joseph was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. Joseph was batting .193 with no RBIs in 40 games. Showalter said the move would enable Joseph to get some at-bats on a regular basis, and that his stint at Norfolk would not exceed the minimum 10 days.
Nationals: Reynaldo Lopez (2-1, 4.37 ERA) makes his fifth major league start Tuesday night. It’s the first time the right-hander will face an AL team.
Orioles: Kevin Gausman (4-10, 4.11) is 1-5 with a 5.15 ERA in his nine previous interleague outings.