Throughout this turbulent Phillies season, there has been one constant truth: When Aaron Nola takes the mound, the Phillies have the advantage in the starting pitching matchup. On Thursday night, that truth was put to the test when the Dodgers countered with the one man who might have been capable of neutralizing Nola’s advantage: Clayton Kerhsaw.
Fortunately for the Phillies, they were not getting the three-time Cy Young Award winner at the height of his powers. Kershaw was making his first start after coming off of a 30-day stay on the disabled list, so it wasn’t clear if we’d be getting the uber-ace of recent seasons, or something less.
The Kershaw of Thursday night was certainly not at the top of his game. His fastball didn’t exceed 90 MPH, but it didn’t seem to matter to the Phillies’ hitters. They could only manage one run against Kershaw, and that runner never even touched home plate.
Maikel Franco was awarded a run without touching home plate. #Dodgers #Phillies pic.twitter.com/TIuTgLg8gR— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) June 1, 2018
Kershaw was on a pitch limit, and was lifted after five. The Phillies took advantage by scoring another run against the Dodgers’ bullpen, but that was all they could manage. On most nights, two runs isn’t going to win you the game. But when Aaron Nola is on the mound, two runs is plenty.
Nola dominated the Dodgers lineup, striking out seven batters in his seven innings. He seemed to grow stronger as the game went on. After the Dodgers scored their lone run in the fifth, Nola retired the next eight hitters.
The Dodgers may have thought they caught a break when Nola left the game after seven innings. But the only thing they caught was the chance to be another victim of the Seranthony Dominguez Domination Tour. Dominguez pitched the final two innings to earn the save.
To their credit, the Dodgers did about as well as any opponent has done against Dominguez this season. While they didn’t get any baserunners aboard, but they did hit some balls hard requiring some tough defensive plays.
That’s right, the maligned Phillies defense helped win the game. In the eighth, Aaron Altherr covered a lot of ground to make this catch:
Would you just LOOK at that catch from Altherr. pic.twitter.com/Jcmz8oU6LK— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) June 1, 2018
And in the ninth, Scott Kingery sure didn’t look like he was playing out of position:
he is out. good lord Kingery are you actually a SS all of the sudden? pic.twitter.com/Mh8SaPUkT1— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) June 1, 2018
While Thursday night’s win was exciting, the long-term significance may go beyond a single game in the standings. Over the past several seasons, the Dodgers have taken the field every five days knowing they’d have the benefit of playing behind one of the league’s elite starting pitchers. It seems more and more likely that over the next few seasons, the Phillies will be able to make a similar claim.