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Frustrating, maddening, all of the above: Pirates 7, Phillies 6

He’s not an ace anymore.

Philadelphia Phillies v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Folks, I’ve been at the vanguard of calling Aaron Nola an ace in the past. Since the days of his high Cy Young finish, I’ve always felt like he was deserving of the moniker.

Those days are no more.

Plagued by some shoddy defensive player, but not without blame of his own, Nola was unable to hold the lead that the team spotted him early, allowing the Pirates to take a lead they would never relinquish and costing the Phillies a chance to put some distance between them and the Marlins.

At first, it looked like the game might turn out as a pitcher’s duel again. Quinn Priester and Nola exchanged zeroes for the first two innings, though Priester looked a bit shakier than Nola did. In the third, Priester hit Brandon Marsh with a pitch and walked Kyle Schwarber with two outs, but got Nick Castellanos on another waving slider down and away for the third out. In the bottom half of the inning, Nola started by allowing Liover Peguero to take him deep into the Pittsburgh dusk, giving Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.

In the fourth, the Phillies found themselves in a familiar position: bases loaded with one out thanks to a walk to Alec Bohm, a double by Bryson Stott and a walk to J.T. Realmuto. As we’ve seen lately, that doesn’t mean the team is going to score runs in these situations, but Marsh made sure that didn’t continue by ripping a double into the gap to clear the bases and give the team a lead.

Jake Cave followed with another double that made the score 4-1 and made you feel like, hey, maybe tonight is going to be a good night for the Phillies.

<womp womp>

Ji-Man Choi doubled to start the inning, Endy Rodriguez doubled him home with one out and the wheels started to wobble. Jared Triolo walked to put men on first and second, but Nola managed to strike out Alika Williams for the second out of the inning. Peguero singled him Rodriguez to make it 4-3, but Nola wiggled his way out of the inning with the lead still intact. The Philles couldn’t add any runs of their own in the fifth, so the Pirates decided they would.

A single to Bryan Reynolds and a walk to Andrew McCutchen opened the inning before Nola struck out Choi, but Bryce Harper made an error to load the bases, an error that would be costly. Rodriguez hit a ball to centerfield that Marsh misplayed into a triple, clearing the bases and ending all doubt about Nola’s outing.

Williams would single home Rodriguez, making the score 7-4 in favor of Pittsburgh and ended Nola’s night before the fifth inning was complete.

However, the Phillies wouldn’t just go quietly. As they’ve done all year, they kept coming back and made it a game. In the sixth, they loaded the bases with nobody out, but could only scratch a run across because Marsh grounded into a force at home, Johan Rojas struck out before Schwarber walked to get a run home, but guess what Castellanos did? That’s right, struck out by waving at pitches down and away.

The eighth inning saw the last best chance to take the lead when Trea Turner singled with one out, Marsh walked, then Rojas singled to drive in Turner and make it a one run game, his coming against Pirates closer David Bednar. Schwarber struck out for the second out, bringing up Castellanos who, that’s right, struck out by waving at breaking pitches down and away.

The ninth saw a spark trying to be lit, but a game ending double play hit into by Realmuto ended what was an incredibly frustrating loss. We’ve seen Nola just not be very good all year. Sure, the defense was bad tonight. The error by Harper and the misplay by Marsh were killers, but it starts on the mound. Nola has to be better and he isn’t.

The playoffs are still far away. The Phillies will probably even make it. They have a chance to make some hay here in the coming weeks against opponents that should not pose much of a threat. Yet if they come up short, if they miss the postseason by one game, this is one of those games that feels like you can look back on and wonder just what the heck happened.