PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies manager Gabe Kapler expected to get the look he needed from Aaron Nola on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.He sees that look a lot.Nola had runners on first and second with two outs in the top of the seventh inning of a 7-3 victory over the
PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies manager Gabe Kapler expected to get the look he needed from Aaron Nola on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.
He sees that look a lot.
Nola had runners on first and second with two outs in the top of the seventh inning of a 7-3 victory over the Braves. He had thrown 95 pitches as the Phillies clung to a one-run lead. Kapler could have pulled him, but instead he walked to the mound to ask Nola how he felt. Nola said he felt fine.
"I feel like we like to be in those situations," Nola said. "The crowd's into it. Two outs with a guy in scoring position, pitching in a close ballgame. We like being those positions, especially when the crowd is loud. It was fun."
Nola got Ender Inciarte to ground out on a 3-2 curveball to get out of the inning and preserve the win. Odubel Herrera homered twice and Jorge Alfaro homered once as the Phillies improved to 16-9, a game out of first place in the National League East.
Kapler beamed afterward, talking about another strong effort from Nola, who allowed three runs in a rough first inning, but allowed just four hits in six scoreless innings the rest of the way.
"There's a very cool, calm, poised, collected leadership and that's Nola," Kapler said. "It doesn't matter that he gives up three in the first. He's just the same dude. He's going to go back out there, continue to attack the zone and never get off his game. We saw it until the last moment of the game, the last pitch he delivered. It was the same guy with the same level of confidence. If you're going to look at Jake (Arrieta's) bold, strong, powerful leadership, you can also look to Nola's calm, cool, poised leadership. Both are special in their own way."
Nola is 3-1 with a 2.58 ERA. It is the third time he has faced the Braves in the first four weeks of the season.
That can be a challenge for a pitcher, but not for Nola. He adjusted. He knew he had a good changeup early, so he threw it a lot. In fact, he threw a career-high 28 changeups, also tying a career-high with seven swings-and-misses on the pitch.
"The feel of it felt pretty good after the first or second inning," Nola said. "I was throwing it to guys and there were swings and misses. I was seeing that. I was seeing foul balls with it. I just kept throwing it. It felt good tonight."
Just like Kapler felt good about his chances letting Nola face Inciarte in the seventh.
"I was pretty confident that I was going to get the vibe that he was prepared to handle that batter," he said. "He looked the same way he looks at his locker two days before his start. Totally prepared, totally confident, poised, strong."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Alfaro smashed a two-run home run to center field in the seventh inning to hand the Phillies a 6-3 lead. Alfaro has been struggling, striking out 25 times in 58 plate appearances. Kapler said recently that Alfaro needs to dial down his swing from 100 percent to 90 percent. Alfaro took nice, easy swings when he singled off the right-field wall in the fifth, homered in the seventh and singled in the eighth.
"I've been working in the cage and trying to select better pitches in the zone and trying to swing at strikes," Alfaro said.
Rhys Hoskins singled to right field in the first inning. It was the 50th time he reached base in his first 100 plate appearances this season. He is the first Phillies player to post a .500 on-base percentage or better in his first 100 plate appearances in a season since Von Hayes (.510) in 1989.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Herrera crushed his three-run home run to right field in the first inning. It left his bat at 112.2 mph, making it the hardest-hit home run of his career. It is the third-hardest home run hit by a Phillies player since Statcast™ debuted in 2015. Alfaro holds the top two spots. He hit one at 114.5 mph on April 7 and one at 114.2 mph on Aug. 15.
• Herrera's on-base streak at 27 games after 2 HRs
If you thought Herrera's homer sailed low, it did. Statcast™ recorded a 16-degree launch angle, tying it for the lowest-hit home run in baseball this season.
Naturally, Herrera's second homer in the sixth clocked at 90.7 mph, the softest, over-the-wall homer hit in baseball this season.
Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (1-0, 2.57 ERA) faces Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz (1-1, 2.77 ERA) in Saturday's 6:05 p.m. ET game at Citizens Bank Park. Pivetta has been one of the team's best surprises early, establishing himself as an effective and sometimes dominant starter.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.