Cole suspended five games for retaliation pitch (Nats win 4-2)

Major League Baseball has suspended A.J. Cole five games for intentionally throwing at Jung Ho Kang's head during the Nationals game Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Cole, who also was fined an undisclosed amount, has appealed the suspension, so he remains on the Nationals active roster until a hearing can be held and ruled upon. He's tentatively lined up to start Friday night against the Marlins, his final outing of the regular season.

The five-game suspension is a fairly standard punishment for throwing at a batter's head in retaliation, as Cole appeared to do to Kang minutes after the Pirates third baseman faked a tag that caused Bryce Harper to slide awkwardly and injure his right thumb.


The incidents happened in the third inning of Sunday's game at PNC Park, beginning with Kang's deke at third base, which upset both Harper and the Nationals dugout. Harper wound up departing the game with what eventually was deemed not to be a major injury after X-rays returned negative, but the reigning National League MVP has not played since.

Kang was due up third in the bottom of the inning, and Cole's first pitch sailed behind the slugger's back. Plate umpire Jordan Baker immediately ejected Cole as both benches and bullpens spilled onto the field for a minor skirmish. Pirates left fielder Sean Rodriguez, one of the instigators of the skirmish, also was ejected from the game but was not disciplined by MLB.

Cole tried to claim the pitch wasn't intentional. To admit otherwise would only have subjected himself to a more substantial suspension.

"The scouting report, you've got to up and in, around the hands, that's where I was trying to go," the rookie right-hander said. "You have to get in tight on him. If you leave it out over the plate, he's going to hit it. He's got, what, 20 home runs now? You've got to get it in there, you can't just leave it over the plate. And that's where I was trying to go."

Update: The Nationals' game against the Diamondbacks tonight is off to a ragged start. Max Scherzer served up a home run to Jean Segura on his very first pitch of the game, and he's had to battle ever since. Arizona's batters have struck several balls hard, including a pair of doubles off the center field wall in the top of the third that extended the D-backs' lead to 2-0. The Nats lineup, meanwhile, has yet to produce a hit against rookie right-hander Matt Koch. Jayson Werth, who was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the first, is the lone batter to reach so far through three innings.

Update II: Five-and-a-half innings in the books, and the good news is Scherzer has found his groove. He struck out seven in a row at one point, and has 10 overall through six. That's 277 strikeouts on the season for Max, breaking the Nats club record he set last year. The bad news: The Nats still don't have a hit through five innings against Koch. And they haven't even come that close. Stay tuned...

Update III: The no-hitter is over. So is the Arizona lead. Jose Lobaton led off the sixth with a single, and when Wilmer Difo (pinch-hitting for Scherzer) drew a walk after that, Chip Hale decided to pull his rookie starter after 69 pitches and turn to his bullpen. That didn't go well for Hale, though it went quite well for the Nats. Randal Delgado walked Trea Turner to load the bases, then after striking out Jayson Werth got Stephen Drew to hit a sac fly to left. Up stepped Anthony Rendon, who promptly drove a ball to left for a three-run homer. It was Rendon's 19th homer of the season, and it put Scherzer suddenly in line for his 19th win. It also was Rendon's 500th career hit, and it earned him a curtain call. Just like that, the Nats lead 4-2.

Update IV: And that's your ballgame. Sammy Solis pitched a 1-2-3 seventh. Shawn Kelley pitched a 1-2-3 eighth. And Mark Melancon pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, earning his 44th save of the season. Nats win 4-2, with Scherzer notching his 19th win of the year and giving him a shot at 20 in Sunday's regular season finale. The magic number for home field advantage in the NLDS is five, with the Dodgers still playing tonight in San Diego.

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