If I had a crystal ball and was able to tell you that Aaron Nola would register 11 strikeouts in a game prior to that game starting, but that’s all I told you, how would you feel about the Phillies’ chances in that game? Pretty good, right? Especially after his last start against the Mets, it would be a fairly safe assumption that with those two totals, Nola had figured something out that was causing his disappointing season and that those two starts would be the springboards to better starts ahead.
Unfortunately, those 11 strikeouts that Nola did register came in less than five innings, something that has never been done before in Phillies history.
Aaron Nola is the first player in Phillies history (!?!) to strike out at least 11 batters and not finish five innings.— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) July 1, 2021
Of course if Nola isn’t finishing five innings, you can pretty much guess how this start went for him and for the team.
It started out so well too. After Nola gave up a solo home run to the newly acquired Joe Panik, Bryce Harper tied things up very quickly in the bottom of the second with a long, long home run to centerfield.
Bryce Harper drills his 12th homer of the season off the batter's eye in center field. pic.twitter.com/nKjejlV8W8— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) June 30, 2021
Two more batters got on for the team via walks, bringing up Nick Maton to face Jordan Holloway. Maton continued his recent run of good form by tripling down the line and making it 3-1.
Nick Maton developing into a real major league piece for the Phillies would be such a win.— David Esser (@DavidEsser_) July 1, 2021
Maton would score thanks to an Odubel Herrera sacrifice fly and Nola was given a three-run lead to work with. He’d give one back in the fourth on another solo home run, this one from Adam Duvall, but the Phillies helped him out by rebuilding the three-run lead on an RBI single from Jean Segura. Things were looking good as Nola was throwing well, striking people out and the Phillies had built a decent lead.
Then the BABIP gods gathered and said, “No more.”
Now, we can look at all of the little dinks and dunks that Nola allowed in the sixth, three of them barely hitting 60 miles an hour in exit velocity, but there were still balls given up by Nola on two strikes that just cannot happen. He’s had trouble all year putting batters away and that issue showed up again. Perhaps the biggest thing that cause all the issues was the balk with a man on base that moved Magneuris Sierra from first to second base. That was an issue because the next batter grounded out on a near certain double play, but with the runner on second, that chance didn’t materialize.
Now, the other thing that was an issue was who Joe Girardi chose to help keep the game close. With the score tied and runners at the corners, it was an important, high leverage situation that called for Girardi to choose......
I don’t know anymore. I cannot fathom what was going through this team’s collective heads that they would think a pitcher who hadn’t been in the major leagues since 2017 prior the other night would be the best option in that high a leverage situation. Especially after Feliz was so bad on Monday in a similarly high leverage situation. Of course Feliz promptly blew it open by allowing a single and a double to score three more runs and suddenly, it was an 8-5 Marlins lead.
The rains came next and delayed the game for a while, but it only delayed the inevitable. A game that was semi-within reach was put out of that reach by the remainder of the bullpen arms trotting out from centerfield. Hector Neris was summoned in the sixth, but he allowed two runs that put the game permanently out of reach, an inning that included yet another butchering of a baseball by Alec Bohm. Enyel de los Santos apparently found something he was missing Monday night when he struck out three batters during his one inning, but Connor Brogdon allowed another run in the eighth that ended the scoring for Miami.
Bryce Harper did this in the seventh that sent a small buzz through the ballpark, but it did nothing to the dugout.
83) Bryce Harper - (13) Solo pic.twitter.com/NPeItztvyN— Phillies HR Tracker (@PHI_HR_Tracker) July 1, 2021
It was actually one of the sadder moments of the season seeing Andrew Knapp put the homer hat on him, realizing as soon as he did it that maybe that wasn’t the time to do any celebrating. Watching the offense continue to be lifeless after giving up a lead was probably the other thing that made Knapp realize it wasn’t the right time.
It just another in a season full of disappointing, yet sadly familiar, losses where the bullpen just could not get things done, where the team’s Opening Day starter could not get his job done and where the manager continued to show a stunning lack of bullpen management. Maybe he’ll get ejected early tomorrow and let someone else try.