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I much prefer good Aaron Nola: Phillies 3, Rays 1

This is the kind of pitcher I like to see what Nola is on the mound

Philadelphia Phillies v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Aaron Nola has been a point of derision this season and for good reason. There has been something off about him all year long, leading people to watch a lot of his starts with the idea of “when does he lose it today?” Usually, he’ll be going fine for a few innings before something happens to him that causes the walls to collapse. Facing the best team in the American League today, it felt like a matter of “when” the Rays would get to him, not “if”.

It was not to be so.

Nola was going up against his friend Zach Eflin and entered into a pitching duel with him that was a bit unexpected. Eflin has been good all year for Tampa Bay, so that part was what you might be thinking. The way Nola threw was the part where you kind of thought, “Wow.”

For the Phillies, they drew first blood in the second inning when Bryson Stott doubled with two outs, then was followed by a double from Alec Bohm, giving the Phillies a 1-0 lead. From there, the two pitchers entered into a standoff, exchanging zeroes for several more innings with nary a threat made by either side. Tampa Bay tried to mount one in the third when they put runners on the corners with one out thanks to an error by Trea Turner, but Nola would bear down to strikes out Wander Franco and Luke Raley to squash it. In the sixth, Franco would single to start the inning, then steal second to begin to put the heat on Nola. After inducing a pop up from Raley, Randy Arozarena would single on a weakly hit ball to Bohm at third to put men on first and second with one out. Again though, Nola worked his way out of the jam by getting a pop up from Isaac Paredes, then a huge strikeout from Brandon Lowe.

Needing some insurance, the Phillies grabbed a run in the seventh inning, Harper doubling with one out to get it started. J.T. Realmuto would ground the ball to Franco at shortstop, but Franco booted it, leaving men on the corners for Bryson Stott. Stott singled through the hole at second to bring in Harper and make the score 2-0.

In the eighth, the Phillies got another when Kyle Schwarber singled to start the inning, then scored on a two-out “I thought it was a home run” single from Harper (one he should have been running hard from the box from) that scored Schwarber and made it 3-0.

Nola was still cruising through this offensive onslaught, making it into the eighth before allowing a home run to Franco to make the score 3-1 and to be removed from the game in favor of Jose Alvarado before anything else happened to let the game snowball and get out of control. Alvarado would finish the inning rather easily before Craig Kimbrel closed the game out in the ninth for his 13th save in 13 chances, giving the Phillies their tenth straight road win.

The story of the game was Nola. He was masterful in this one, tying a career high by striking out twelve Rays on the day. It was a game that of course makes you wonder if he turned the corner a bit on the season since this is his second start in the last three where he looked like he was back to normal a bit. There is still a bit before we can totally trust him this season, but let’s hope he’s starting (finally) to figure it all out.