Aaron Nola was entering a career-milestone start last night and it was assumed that it would bring some magic to the game. The Phillies experienced none of that. Granted, they were going up against the second-place Atlanta Braves but dropping two in a row is only hurting them in the Wild Card standings.
Aaron Nola falls short
Aaron Nola, the former first round pick by the Phils in 2014, has had a pretty interesting career so far in the pros. His very first start saw him lose 1-0 after going six strong innings while surrendering five hits and one run on top of collecting six strikeouts. The irony? His first career run allowed was a homerun to former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher, Nate Karns. Coincidentally, that was also the first hit of Karns’ career and first homer by an AL pitcher since Zach Britton in 2011.
Nola also became the second Phillies pitcher to make their debut one year after being drafted since Pat Combs debuted in 1989. Seven years later, Nola is a one-time All-Star with two top 10 finishes in the Cy Young Award standings and is still the ace in this rotation. His 200th start saw him allow four earned runs in seven innings compiled with two walks and eight strikeouts as the Phightins late comeback fell short in a 4-3 loss. Not exactly something you’d hope for in a big outing but Aaron Nola remained steady the entire game and I believe that’s where it matters most down the stretch.
Shifting the spotlight back to the team, their loss last night now puts them only half a game in front of San Diego and one and a half games ahead of Milwaukee who are currently riding a two-game win streak. Three weeks left in the regular season means they have to start tightening things up and stay the course if they wish to end this playoff drought. A lot of teams are going to lose ground in the standings these final weeks so its on Philly to make sure they aren’t one of them.
Their final five series of the regular season are the Blue Jays, Braves, Cubs, Nationals, and Astros in that order. This could be a cause for concern as Toronto, Houston, and Atlanta provide the most resistance for Philly considering they hold playoff spots right now. If they can manage to prevent a sweep in those series and take one or two games then that will help them stay alive in the standings.
The Cubs and Nationals prevent the least amount of resistance here but Chicago did just sweep the Mets in a very unlikely scenario last week so that series might be full of surprises. Regardless, Philly has to play with their backs against the wall because only then will they keep their sights focused on finishing the regular season in style.
If they are to make some noise in the postseason, they’ll need Aaron Nola to be at his best.
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