April showers do have the ability to stunt a baseball player’s campaign early on but most of the time, they find a way out of it. Aaron Nola is no exception to this as it seems he has finally hit his stride heading into the quarter-way point of the season.
Ace In The Hole
Nola’s shaky start began with his first appearance against Oakland when he allowed four earned runs off four hits (two HRs) while striking out seven in six innings of work. Even though the Phils were able to come out on top in a 9-5 victory, this wasn’t a good look for a guy thought to be their ace before the arrival of Zack Wheeler.
What followed this outing were three consecutive losses against the Mets (twice) and Rockies only further sinking his win/loss record to 1-3 by month’s end. What would follow in May is a version of Nola that many of us haven’t seen since the 2020 season.
In his sixth appearance of the year, Nola went seven strong innings only allowing one earned run (one HR) and one walk while striking out seven against the Mets. What could have been a great 7-1 win quickly turned into an 8-7 loss when Philly’s bullpen allowed seven earned runs in the last frame.
If I’m Nola, I’m definitely frustrated after this disastrous loss considering he hasn’t gained a win since April 8th. And, not to mention, they were wearing the coveted powder blue uniforms which should have guaranteed a big win at home!
His next two outings against the Mariners and Dodgers would also result in losses but his stamina allowed him to go no less than five innings in any of the three appearances in May. He averaged seven strikeouts over those appearances and only gave up more than two runs once which is a positive step in the right direction. Analyzing Nola from last year and comparing him to now makes it clear to see that they are not the same player.
His season ERA now sits at 3.64 and his eight starts in eight games played lead both leagues in MLB. The LSU product has the potential to make a run for the NL Cy Young award but beating out players like reigning winner Corbin Burnes or Miami’s Pablo Lopez could prove to be a challenge. A welcome one at best because guys like him don’t scare so easily as they tend to work even harder to obtain such a distinguished award.
Taking The Bump
Aaron Nola’s Next Start
Nola’s next scheduled start is on Saturday, May 21st when the LA Dodgers fly into town to start a three-game set. Last week, both teams collided for the first time this season and it was the Phils who walked away with a huge series win. Three out of the four games were decided by two runs or less and injured Bryce Harper was able to contribute immensely in the DH spot.
Ironically, he ended the series against LA on May 15th and will be the first pitcher to start their new series beginning on May 20th. If he brings the mentality that he brought the last time he faced off against the SoCal sluggers (7 IP, 2 ER, 8 Ks) then all will be well in Nolaland. Mark this game on your calendar now because it’s going to be one you won’t want to miss.