Many people - including myself - believed that after a not-so-good 2021 season, Aaron Nola would return to his previous Cy Young vote earning form this year. After all, his peripheral numbers were still strong in 2021, and his problems (trouble with two outs and with runners on base) seemed like the type of thing that wouldn’t necessarily carry over to a new season. Unfortunately, in his first two starts of 2022, Nola has looked an awful lot like his 2021 self. And partly because of his poor start on Wednesday afternoon, the Phillies fell to the Mets 9-6.
Nola seemed off from the beginning of the game when he walked the first batter he faced. A double play helped erase that mistake, but in the third inning, the old two-out home run problem reared its head again as Brandon Nimmo took him deep.
The following inning, he walked a batter, and hit two others, and with two more runs across, Nola’s day was over.
The Phillies have had to lean on their middle relief a lot recently, and over the course of a season, that’s not going to be a successful formula. Unlike Monday night, when Nick Nelson helped keep the Phillies in the game, on Wednesday, they allowed the Mets to blow things open. Pete Alonso’s three-run home run off of Conor Brogdon in the sixth inning put the game out of reach for a Phillies’ offense that hasn’t been doing much scoring recently.
We all knew that the Phillies’ middle relief wasn’t going to be a team strength, but the thought was that the offense would hopefully be able to overcome their shortcomings. And while the Phillies did eventually score six runs on Wednesday, there were plenty of opportunities to do much greater damage.
They loaded the bases against Max Scherzer with one out in the first, but Scherzer was able to work out of the jam unscathed. The Phillies did manage to score a run in the fourth, but after starting out with runners on first and third, a single run was a disappointing result.
With the score 8-1 and his pitch count high, Scherzer was removed from the game in the sixth inning. Against the Mets’ bullpen, the Phillies showed a little bit of life, scoring a pair of runs in both the sixth and seventh inning. But once again, it felt like an opportunity for even more was there. Bryce Harper’s ninth inning home run got the Phillies to within three runs, but that was as close as they would get.
I’m confident that the offense will turn things around soon and become the powerhouse unit we expected. Perhaps Harper’s homer is a sign that he’ll be heating up soon, and I don’t think Kyle Schwarber is as bad as he’s looked lately. (Hitless since Opening Day, with three strikeouts on Wednesday) But sadly, after watching yet another shaky start, I’m nowhere near as confident that a turnaround is forthcoming for Aaron Nola.