You know those games that just feel like they are must win games? The ones that you feel the team really needs in order to have any kind of a chance at bigger and better things later on in the season? This one had the feel. Coming off a big win on Sunday that propelled them on their week long quest before the All-Star break, the Phillies had rearranged their rotation in order to give them the best shot at winning the opening game of the series against the division leading Braves. They went with Aaron Nola because he is who has pitched the best lately.
Tonight, he delivered.
Racking up a career best 117 pitches as he lasted 8 masterful innings, Nola showed that perhaps he has turned the corner and finally rediscovered what made him a top three Cy Young finisher in 2018.
Going up against Dallas Keuchel, this game could have served as a “see, I told you so” if they had lost and Keuchel had pitched well. You could almost hear the scribes wondering a mistake was made passing on Keuchel this offseason had the Braves taken this game, but no - it was Nola who would put on a clinic.
It’s not like Keuchel was bad either. He held the Phillies offense, one that had recently decided to hit like they are capable of, in check for most of the night. He threw seven innings of five hit ball, surrendering two walks and striking out three, inducing weak contact most of the night. He didn’t make many mistakes, but the one big one he made, Jay Bruce capitalized, roping a two-run double that scored Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto for the game’s only two runs.
¡Jay Bruce estrena la pizarra con doble remolcador de 2 carreras en la 4ta entrada! #LosPhillies pic.twitter.com/5XzTjpgQJD— Phillies de Filadelfia (@losphillies) July 3, 2019
That was all Nola would need. He only gave up four hits and three walks, struck out eight and looked in command of everything all night long. Any time he needed a big out, he got it. Any time he needed a big pitch, he made it. It was vintage Aaron Nola tonight, something this team has not seen a whole lot of this season. He’s been a lot better lately, as we’ve seen.
Aaron Nola finishes off Freddie Freeman to complete eight scoreless innings in 117 pitches. Nola's last three starts: 1 earned run in 23 innings.— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) July 3, 2019
We rarely see Gabe Kapler let hit pitchers go very far in a game, but tonight was different. Tonight, you could tell that if Nola was dealing, Kapler was going to lean on him hard throughout.
Lost in the Nola goodness was the bottom of the ninth clinic that Hector Neris put on. Last time he was here, he experienced one of the more painful losses of the season. While he was back on the bump the night following that loss, he still wanted to erase that memory from his mind and decided to go right after the Braves’ hitters. Boy did he ever come through.
Héctor Neris strikes out the side in the ninth to seal the deal. These kinds of games have been few and far between for the Phillies. Cherish this. https://t.co/Yn4X8ObLVX— Bill Baer (@Baer_Bill) July 3, 2019
It was exactly the way to start this ever so important series in Atlanta. Tomorrow night, we see if Nick Pivetta can continue it. For now, we leave you with this.
Aaron Nola setting the tone for the series and Hector Neris striking out the side!! #RingTheBell @Phillies pic.twitter.com/IHpqqowWrh— (@KevinFrandsen) July 3, 2019