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Mr. Nola’s Opus: Phillies 4, Marlins 0

“AaRoN nOlA iS wAsHeD uP”

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Miami Marlins Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

How high were your hopes that the Phillies would come out on top by the end of this series? Miami has held bad vibes for quite some time now, so we reflexively come to expect the worst in South Florida. Luckily for all of us, Aaron Nola delivered a masterful pitching performance, which sent the Phillies into the All-Star break and helped the Phillies sweep the Marlins in Miami for the first time since September 2010, and brought them even with St. Louis for the final wild card spot in the National League.

Nola just demolished the Miami batters today, striking out 10 Marlins across 8.1 innings of shutout ball while walking 1 and surrendering 4 hits on just 108 pitches. There’s really no other words to describe his game today other than “wow.” Nola is quietly having an exemplary season, sporting the best K/BB ratio in baseball, taking his place alongside franchise greats, and is probably one start away from eclipsing his 2021 WAR total.

If not for some unfortunate defensive positioning in the bottom of the 9th, this probably would have been a complete game shutout, but a single each through the shift and off of Yairo Muñoz’s glove brought Jose Alvarado in to close things out. Rob Thomson was probably justified in removing Nola, but no small part of me wishes that he had been allowed to go the distance. Meanwhile, Alvarado continued to impress, extending his scoreless innings streak to 10.1 across 13 games. It is incredibly refreshing to see him improve, and hopefully turn into a dependable arm in the bullpen as the Phils play games with increasingly higher stakes.

In yet another subversion of your expectations, the offense showed up to support Nola’s spectacular start. 4 runs in the top of the 4th were all the Phillies would need: J.T. Realmuto singled and scored on an Alec Bohm double, who later scored on a Matt Vierling double, who himself came around to score on Muñoz’s two run home run. Comparatively, the Marlins’s only runner in scoring position appeared in the bottom of the ninth.

Whatever Canadian devil magic Rob Thomson has placed on this squad is clearly working, because this is a different team from the one we saw in the beginning of June. They should probably be seriously considered a playoff team at this point, in part because of the quality of their play, but mainly because they are now tied for the NL’s final Wild Card slot. That’s right: despite Harper’s injury, Realmuto’s offensive slump, chaos in the manager’s office, and some really breathtakingly weird defense, the Phillies would make the playoffs if the season ended today.

The Phillies stand at 49-43. Enjoy the All-Star Break. Hopefully Schwarber wins the Home Run Derby.