A.J. Cole had to go back to the past to turn around his present.
The Nationals' No. 4 prospect recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts and allowed a run on three hits over six innings Saturday as Class A Advanced Potomac rallied past Frederick, 4-3, to complete a doubleheader sweep.
Cole walked two and made one mistake, giving up a third-inning homer to Orioles No. 5 prospect Nicky Delmonico. It turned out to be the Keys' last hit off the 21-year-old right-hander.
"Everything was working real well for me," Cole said. "All my pitches felt comfortable, I could throw them at any time. I went up there and threw like I used to throw. I was confident. I wasn't trying to be picky, I wasn't trying to be fine."
The Florida native has struggled at times this season, going 3-2 with a 4.62 ERA in 12 starts. While he ranks second in the Carolina League with 72 strikeouts, he's also surrendered nine homers over 64 1/3 innings. The difference on Saturday was going back to the way he used to pitch.
"Growing up, I had a three-quarter arm slot. And the past year, I got away from that," Cole explained. "I found it again with the help of my pitching coach, Chris Michalak. He got me back to it and I feel great. The ball is coming out a lot better.
"First start of the season, I was getting after it. Everything still felt good, but something was missing. These past two starts, I actually found it."
Cole, who said he was "pretty pleased" with his latest outing, previously notched nine strikeouts five times, most recently on May 3 against Myrtle Beach. The 2010 fourth-round Draft pick, who throws a two-seam fastball, a knuckle-curve and a changeup, said he was able to use all three pitches in strikeout situations.
"It was just depending on the situation, any one of my three pitches I was comfortable throwing," Cole said. "I was changing up on them a little more. They didn't know what was coming."
The first-place Nationals scored four times in the bottom of the sixth inning to get Cole the win, with Justin Miller smacking an RBI triple and Cole Leonida doubling home a run.
Frederick took advantage of four walks to score twice in the seventh, but Rob Wort recorded the final two outs to notch his second save.
Potomac won the opener, 8-7, as Nationals No. 5 prospect Michael Taylor slugged a two-run homer and Adrian Nieto also had a pair of RBIs.