It's Nola vs. Nola: 'We're living a dream'

August 22nd, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- What’s it like to pitch to your older brother in the big leagues? Well, the adrenaline boost is real. Just ask .

The Phillies right-hander was excellent Saturday night at Petco Park, carrying a perfect game into the seventh inning before surrendering an unearned run in his team's eventual 4-3 loss to the Padres in 10 innings. But he saved a little extra something for his long-awaited matchup with his older brother, , the Padres’ catcher.

Facing each other for the first time in their big league careers, Aaron, the younger of the two by three years, struck Austin out on three fastballs -- 95.2 mph, 95.9 mph and 96.2 mph. The last two of those were the two hardest pitches Nola has thrown all season.

Aaron said he “might’ve gotten a little extra” energy during that at-bat. Overall, playing against Austin was a dream come true for the brothers.

“It's cool man,” Aaron said. “It's special. It's a fun day. ... We've always talked about playing against each other, and the day finally came. It's pretty surreal.”

Aaron and Austin squared off two more times, with Austin popping out in the fifth inning and working a walk in the seventh.

Aaron got within an out of a complete-game win, but the Padres chased him with a game-tying two run home run by Jake Cronenworth in the bottom of the ninth. That was Aaron's 117th and last pitch of the game.

The matchup Saturday was the first ever meeting of the two Nolas as professionals. They’d spent most of their careers in different leagues, with Austin playing for Seattle before he was dealt to the Padres before last August’s Trade Deadline. When the two teams met earlier this season, Aaron didn’t pitch and Austin was on the injured list with a left knee sprain.

"We thought it might happen early on in the season in Philly, but he was hurt and I [wasn't] pitching,” Aaron said. “... It ended up lining up perfectly. That was pretty fun tonight."

The last time the two squared off against each other in a semi-competitive setting came nearly a decade ago when Austin and Aaron were teammates at LSU. They faced each other in an intrasquad game in which Austin doubled.

Nine years later, Aaron got a bit of revenge -- on a much bigger stage. He even tacked on a double at the plate in the top of the eighth inning.

The Nola family was on hand for Saturday’s reunion, including a large contingent from their native Louisiana.

“We're living a dream right now,” father A.J. Nola told Bally Sports San Diego during the game. “Words can't describe it right now. I'm just trying to soak it all in and enjoy the moment, because we've been waiting for this since they were little kids.”

It was the first time brothers faced each other as pitcher and batter in the Majors since July 10, when Kansas City’s Kyle Zimmer struck out his younger brother, Bradley, in Cleveland.