SAN FRANCISCO -- Pete Mackanin sat in his office Thursday afternoon at AT&T Park and contemplated the number of aces in baseball. He figures there are maybe a dozen.
Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola has been pitching like an ace since the middle of June, but he struggled in Thursday night's 5-4 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park. He allowed seven hits, five runs and three walks and struck out three in five innings to snap his historic run of 10 consecutive starts of two or fewer runs allowed.
"The baseball gods got him finally," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp said.
Elias Sports Bureau said Nola is the first Phillies pitcher to accomplish the feat since Major League Baseball made the mound 60 feet, 6 inches, from home plate in 1893.
"I'm trying not to think about that now," Nola said after the game. "Obviously, this wasn't a great outing."
Nola, 24, entered the night with a 3.2 WAR, according to FanGraphs. It tied him with Jacob deGrom and Stephen Strasburg for fifth among National League pitchers, behind only Max Scherzer (5.0), Jimmy Nelson (4.3), Clayton Kershaw (4.1) and Zack Greinke (4.1).
But Nola had his issues against the Giants. He lacked his trademark command, throwing 48 of 84 pitches (57.1 percent) for strikes. It was his second-lowest strike percentage of the season and the fifth-lowest of his career.
He threw 66.1 percent of his pitches for strikes during the 10-start streak.
"I didn't think I was missing too bad, but I was missing," Nola said. "I was 1-0, 2-0, 2-1 a lot. I left some balls up and they used all parts of the field."
He also lacked velocity on his fastballs. They averaged about 91.2 mph after averaging 91.9 mph this season.
"I didn't have the pop I usually have," Nola said. "I did on a couple of them. But I was throwing a lot of two-seamers tonight, too. Location wasn't crisp. I feel good, feel fine."
But even with Thursday's start, Nola has a 2.21 ERA (18 earned runs in 73 1/3 innings) since June 16. He is developing into somebody the Phillies can build a rotation around.
"He's proving that he's probably a front-end starter," Mackanin said before the game, stopping just short of calling Nola an ace. "My bar is high for No. 1's. You really have to be special."
If Nola returns to form in his next start and finishes the season strong, he can work his way into that conversation entering next season.
"You want it to continue," Mackanin said about Nola's streak. "You never want it to stop."