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Called on to elevate his game, Nola delivers

Phils righty handcuffs Braves with 8 innings of 1-run ball
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

ATLANTA -- Aaron Nola answered the call.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure held a meeting with Nola and Jerad Eickhoff over the weekend in Philadelphia, asking two of the club's most talented and promising young pitchers to step up their games. Nola did just that Tuesday night in a 3-1 victory over the Braves at Turner Field. He allowed five hits, one run and one walk in eight innings. He struck out six.

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ATLANTA -- Aaron Nola answered the call.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure held a meeting with Nola and Jerad Eickhoff over the weekend in Philadelphia, asking two of the club's most talented and promising young pitchers to step up their games. Nola did just that Tuesday night in a 3-1 victory over the Braves at Turner Field. He allowed five hits, one run and one walk in eight innings. He struck out six.

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It was the first time a Phils starter pitched more than seven innings since Sept. 17, 2016, when Jeremy Hellickson threw a shutout against the Marlins. It was the first time Nola pitched more than seven innings since Aug. 23, 2015, when he pitched eight in Miami.

"I can't say enough about Nola," Mackanin said. "We challenged them to pitch better -- it was as simple as that -- and boy, did he rise to the challenge. He was outstanding."

Nola entered the night with a 5.06 ERA after having allowed nine runs in nine innings in his past two starts. He allowed four runs in three innings last week in Miami.

"I think it was time," Nola said about the meeting. "That [tied] the shortest outing of my career. I just tried to put that behind me and execute today."

Nola and Eickhoff are two significant pieces to the Phillies' rebuild. It is no coincidence that when they pitched well early last season, it helped the Phillies jump to a 24-17 start.

"For Pete and them to refresh our memory, I think it definitely helped," Nola said.

Nola needed just 97 pitches to get through eight innings. He threw 36 curveballs and 12 changeups.

"The breaking ball kept breaking," Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

"He had a real good feel of that front-door, two-seamer to lefties and a pretty good curveball and pretty good arm action on his changeup," Braves first baseman Matt Adams said. 

Nola said he asked Mackanin the entire top of the ninth to finish the game, but Mackanin chose closer Hector Neris instead. Neris allowed two singles with one out before Pat Neshek entered the game and picked up the save.

Why not have Nola finish the game?

"Managerial decision," Mackanin said. "No, the last two batters in that eighth inning hit the ball hard against him and I didn't want him to face the middle of the lineup for a fourth time. He did a great job."

Eickhoff faces the Braves on Wednesday night. He has a 6.94 ERA in his last seven starts. Maybe Nola's effort will motivate him.

"Those guys, I've said it all along, they're better than they've been pitching," Mackanin said. "Nola showed us that he's the guy we saw earlier this year and last year."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for arMLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Philadelphia Phillies, Aaron Nola