A mediocre opponent is no guarantee of victory. Not under any circumstances, and especially not when your starting pitcher has struggled to play up to his potential all season. At his best Nola throws like an ace, and while no pitcher always performs at their best, the dips and troughs in Nola’s performances this season have been particularly maddening. Tonight was no different.
Maikel Garcia made Nola work from the beginning, seeing 8 pitches before he flew out to center (manned not by Brandon Marsh, but by Johan Rojas). Bobby Witt Jr. also made Nola work, forcing a full count before striking out. Nola made quicker work of the third batter to end the top of the 1st.
The Royals starter, Jordan Lyles, got Kyle Schwarber to strike out before allowing Alec Bohm to make it to first via single up the middle. Bryce Harper made good contact but couldn’t quite get enough to send it to the seats. The visitors from the City of Fountains had barely managed to finish a sigh of relief before Nick Castellanos made them wince with a 2 run shot to open the scoring.
Nola’s smooth start hit a roadblock in the 2nd as he allowed the first two batters to reach base: a single by Salvador Perez and a double by Edward Olivares. But this was no meltdown, merely a false alarm. Nola coolly struck out the next three batters, two swinging, to get out of the inning with an unblemished box score.
Marsh doubled to put himself in scoring position for Trea Turner, who arrived at the plate to a loud ovation from the fans, as well as chants of “Let’s go Trea!” audible on the broadcast. He hit a soft liner that found the glove of Perez, but no disappointment was evident from the fans; more cheers accompanied Turner back to the dugout.
Nola struck out the first batter of the 3rd, but allowed a single to Garcia. Nola would not prove to be as adept at working out of it as he was in the last inning. Witt Jr. hit a no-doubter over the left field wall. The lead was gone, though Nola staunched the bleeding and kept it tied.
Bryson Stott doubled when MJ Melendez lost a fly ball; Marsh joined him on base via a hit by pitch. Rojas slammed a liner to left. Melendez’ fielding woes continued as the ball flew just over his outstretched glove and bounced off the wall, restoring the Phillies’ 2 run lead.
In the top of the 5th, the Phillies got to two outs before Witt Jr. singled, and stole second. A pickoff attempt forced him to make a break for 3rd; Bohm tagged him to end the inning, though a challenge was required to correct a safe call on the field. They then went down in order in their own half.
The 6th began with a sight familiar both from the earlier innings and from the season as a whole: Nola surrendering a homer. This one was a second-deck bomb from Michael Massey, cutting the Phillies’ lead to 4-3. Nola then allowed a double to Olivares and walked Melendez. His night ended thereafter, with Yunior Marte his replacement. Freddy Fermin doubled to tie the game, and a bloop single from Dairon Blanco scored two more to give the Royals their first lead of the night.
The Phillies began to mount a comeback attempt in their half of the 6th, with the ever-reliable Stott hitting his second double of the night to lead them off. The next two Phillies made outs, bringing up Turner, and another round of cheers. The cheers turned into a roar as Turner slapped the ball to right, singling, scoring Stott, and chasing Lyles. Dylan Coleman came in to finish the 6th, walking Rojas but striking out Schwarber to limit the damage.
The top of the 7th went quietly. The Royals sent out Carlos Hernández for the bottom, who allowed a walk to Harper and not much else.
The top of the 8th began with Melendez tripling off Jeff Hoffman on a ball that Marsh got just a bit of his glove on. Marsh repeatedly indicated that the ball was foul, though it clearly was not. Marsh’s feet landed around the foul line, but the ball was well into fair territory. The Phillies issued a somewhat baffling challenge which prompted a confirmation of the original call. A subsequent suicide squeeze extended the Royals’ lead to 2, and the Phillies weren’t able to narrow it in the bottom of the 8th.
Dylan Covey brought down the Royals quickly in the 9th, and the Phillies were on to their final stand. Schwarber was hit on the arm with a pitch to make it to first, but Harper hit into a double play to end a frustrating night. The Phillies play the Royals again tomorrow night at 6:05. The team may get back to winning ways tomorrow, but questions about Nola’s effectiveness will linger.