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Can’t ask for anything better: Phillies 4, Braves 1

What a start from Nola

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Phillies fans are a simple lot. They don’t ask a lot out of their team. Winning the game, of course, but mostly, they just ask that the game be uneventful. However it ends, they would rather the game just be decided early on, one way or another. All of these close games, games that end wildly or involved multiple head scratching plays, they’re the ones that get the fans riled up.

So when Aaron Nola stepped on the mound tonight and threw an absolute gem of a baseball game, they’re the ones that make the fans sit back and smile.

Nola wasn’t exactly “locked in” early, getting in a bit of trouble in the second inning when he hit Matt Olson with a pitch, then allowed a one out single to William Contreras, but he wiggled out of that jam rather easily. After that, he had a minor issue in the third when he allowed Dansby Swanson and Olson to take their spots on the corners, but after that threat was neutralized, he settled in pretty comfortably. His opposition, Kyle Wright, was downright dominant in the first two innings, but had some issues in the third.

J.T. Realmuto, who has really struggled this year, took a fastball middle in and drilled it to left for a home run that gave the Phillies the lead in the third.

Wright would then allow a single to Odubel Herrera, a walk to Bryson Stott, and a bloop single to Rhys Hoskins that loaded the bases with no one out. Unfortunately for the Phillies, these are the exact situations where their lineup has come up small lately and it happened again. Alec Bohm struck out for the first out, then Bryce Harper grounded into a double play that ended a prime scoring opportunity that the Phillies could not capitalize on.

Normally, when Nola is on the mound, missing those kinds of scoring chances has meant certain doom, but not tonight. Tonight, Nola took it upon himself to carve up the Braves’ lineup while waiting for his own team to add some insurance runs. He got those runs in the seventh inning when Kyle Schwarber walked, Realmuto was hit by a pitch, both with two outs, bringing up Herrera. Herrera would face a new pitcher in Will Smith, who threw a first ball slider that Herrera was waiting for, doubling down the line to score both runners and make it 3-0.

Another run added in the eighth gave Nola a bigger lead, this one on an RBI double by the struggling Nick Castellanos that he badly, badly needed.

The story, though, was Nola. He seemingly got better as the game moved forward, with his curveball particularly sharp. The gameplan came into focus as more and more Braves hitters waved at the pitch to no avail, unable to lay off its tantalizing path toward the plate.

It was a highly impressive performance from Nola, going 8 13 innings, allowing a meaningless run in ninth inning on a bad misplay in right field from Castellanos and a wild pitch from Corey Knebel, but even the final score didn’t feel close. Nola was in control most of the night and gave the team a badly needed split after the last two games they’ve had to endure.

Now, it’s back to New York for a few against the Mets.