Nola ties Seaver's K mark: 'Winning's cooler'

June 26th, 2021

NEW YORK -- tied Tom Terrific.

If only he could have enjoyed it.

Nola matched Tom Seaver’s 51-year-old strikeout record on Friday before the Phillies' gruesome late-inning meltdown in a 2-1 loss to the Mets in Game 1 of a seven-inning doubleheader that went one extra frame at Citi Field. Nola struck out 10 consecutive batters, joining Seaver as the only pitchers in baseball history to accomplish the feat. Seaver struck out 10 consecutive Padres at Shea Stadium on April 22, 1970.

Shea once sat only a hundred yards from Citi Field, of which the address is 41 Seaver Way.

“It’s pretty cool being in a category with Tom,” Nola said.

The record-setting performance started after Nola allowed his first two batters to reach base in the first inning. Nola struck out Michael Conforto and Pete Alonso swinging on curveballs before he struck out Dominic Smith looking on a 0-2 sinker to end the inning.

Nola struck out the side in the second on a sinker, changeup and curveball. He got Taijuan Walker looking on a fastball to start the third for his seventh consecutive strikeout. He struck out Jeff McNeil swinging on a sinker for No. 8, which set a Phillies franchise record, breaking the mark previously held by Steve Carlton (May 9, 1981, vs. San Diego), Curt Schilling (Aug. 26, 1996, at San Francisco) and Jerad Eickhoff (Sept. 28, 2018, vs. Atlanta).

Francisco Lindor struck out swinging on a curveball for No. 9. Seemingly impressed, Lindor shook his head at home plate.

Previously, only nine pitchers in baseball history had struck out nine consecutive batters in a game, including Seaver. The most recent? Mets ace Jacob deGrom, who struck out nine Rockies on April 17.

“My curveball was effective today,” Nola said. “It wasn't popping out of my hand. I was getting swing and misses on that. My changeup wasn't really popping either. I think the key is those pitches were down for the most part all day, and I think that's why I got those swing and misses.”

Nola only had to strike out Conforto in the fourth to make history. Nola and Conforto knew each other well, entering the game with 45 plate appearances against each other. Conforto has not faced anybody in his career more than Nola. Freddie Freeman (61 plate appearances) is the only batter Nola has faced more than Conforto.

“I wasn’t really thinking about anything except getting him out,” Nola said. “But, yeah, I know I’ve faced Mike a lot of times already. He’s a good hitter. We’ve had some good battles.”

Nola started the at-bat with a first-pitch changeup for a ball. Conforto fouled off a fastball and curveball to fall behind 1-2. Nola threw a curveball for a ball to even the count. He then threw a 2-2 changeup.

It was perfect. Conforto swung over the pitch and missed.

“I’ve thrown him everything,” Nola said. “I hadn’t thrown a changeup to that side of the plate. It ended up working out and getting the K.”

It was around then that Nola said he realized he had done something special, because Mets fans started to chant, “Let’s go, Pete!” as Alonso stepped to the plate. Alonso dropped a double down the right-field line with one out in the fourth to snap the streak.

Nola finished his afternoon with a career-high 12 strikeouts. He singled in the third and doubled to right field with two outs in the fifth to score Nick Maton and give the Phillies a 1-0 lead.

But after Nola hit a batter and walked a batter in the sixth, Phillies manager Joe Girardi replaced him at 99 pitches. José Alvarado worked out of the inning. But the seventh started with Luis Guillorme hitting a ball back to the mound. Alvarado lobbed a throw to first base. It was high, and it appeared Rhys Hoskins lost the ball in the sun. It went over his head. Guillorme reached second on the play and eventually scored to tie the game. The Phillies lost in the eighth.

“It was tough,” Nola said about the loss. “I mean, yeah, it's a cool accomplishment. But winning's cooler, in my opinion.”