Is Aaron Nola the most fun pitcher in baseball to watch? When he’s on, the answer is yes.
Aaron Nola, Wicked Knuckle Curve...and Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/35ImtmDzMZ— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 22, 2021
Last night against a New York Yankees lineup that featured DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, and Gary Sanchez, the Phils’ ace twirled six innings of brilliant shutout baseball in which he allowed just one hit and no walks with nine strikeouts in the Phils’ 4-0 win.
It was an awe-inducing display of filth and destruction against what may be the best lineup in baseball.
Aaron Nola, Filthy Front Door Two Seamer. pic.twitter.com/CVeiQZozAz— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 22, 2021
Aaron Nola, Pure Filth (Knuckle Curve & Changeup) pic.twitter.com/K9AJsMfdHf— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 22, 2021
Aaron Nola's 8th and 9th Ks.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 23, 2021
PitchingNinja officially declares him ready for the season to start. pic.twitter.com/tDSqrzbJkL
Four @PitchingNinja tweets in one performance? That’s how you know Aaron Nola was dialed in last night.
Perhaps the lanky right-hander was inspired by manager Joe Girardi’s announcement before the game that Nola would be the team’s Opening Day starter for the fourth year in a row, the longest consecutive stretch of Opening Day starts since Steve Carlton’s 10 straight outings from 1977-86 (Carlton started 14 of 15 games on Opening Day from ‘72-86, with Jim Kaat strangely getting the nod in ‘76). Robin Roberts holds the MLB record for most Opening Day starts in a row for the same team (12), starting every one from 1950-61.
Nola joins a select group of Phils pitchers to make at least four Opening Day starts. In addition to Lefty’s total of 14 and Roberts’ 12, Chris Short (6), Grover Cleveland Alexander (5) and Curt Schilling (5), are the only ones with at least four. Roy Halladay only started three, the same number as Terry Mulholland, and Cole Hamels had just two, one fewer than Brett Myers. Cliff Lee started just once on Opening Day for the Phils (2014).
In recent seasons, a number of less-than stellar starters have gotten the non on Opening Day for the Phils. Jeremy Hellickson started two in 2016 and ‘17, and luminaries such as Floyd Youmans (1989), Bruce Ruffin (1990), Sid Fernandez (1996), Andy Ashby (2000), Omar Daal (2001), Robert Person (2002), Kevin Millwood (2003-04), and Jon Lieber (2005-06) all received the honor as well.
There’s no reason to think Nola won’t add to his tally over the coming years. Barring an injury, he could reach double figures, although it’s unlikely anyone will approach Roberts’ 12 straight or Carlton’s total of 14.
Regardless, Aaron Nola’s incredible performance against New York last night indicates he’s ready for the curtain to open on the 2021 MLB season.