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Nola pitching like he's key part of Phils' future

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- Are there pieces of the Phillies' future already here?

Andy MacPhail, Matt Klentak and Pete Mackanin have been getting that question a lot lately. The Phillies have the worst record in the Majors and there are plenty of reasons why, but these days it's easy to look into the future and see Aaron Nola pitching meaningful games for the Phillies. Nola allowed four hits, two walks and two runs in eight innings and struck out nine in Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Padres.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Are there pieces of the Phillies' future already here?

Andy MacPhail, Matt Klentak and Pete Mackanin have been getting that question a lot lately. The Phillies have the worst record in the Majors and there are plenty of reasons why, but these days it's easy to look into the future and see Aaron Nola pitching meaningful games for the Phillies. Nola allowed four hits, two walks and two runs in eight innings and struck out nine in Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Padres.

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"We're trying to find answers for the future, and Nola's really stepped up," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He was challenged, and he really rose to the occasion. He's been lights-out ever since."

Tweet from @Phillies: Quality start is an understatement. Way to work, Aaron! #GeauxPhils pic.twitter.com/dLxnn50Kp1

Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure challenged Nola and fellow starter Jerad Eickhoff to step up their games in a meeting the first weekend in June. Nola is 4-3 with a 2.61 ERA in seven starts since. In 48 1/3 innings, he has allowed 35 hits, 14 walks and 14 runs, with 52 strikeouts. Opponents have hit just .198 against him.

It's quite a turnaround. Nola had a 7.48 ERA in 14 previous starts dating to June 11, 2016, including a lengthy stint on the DL in the second half of last season because of an injured right elbow.

Nobody in the organization panicked about Nola, but many outsiders wondered if he could recapture the form that made him the team's first-round pick in the 2014 Draft and post a 3.12 ERA in his first 25 career starts.

Video: SD@PHI: Nola catches Myers looking at strike three

"It's just knowing what I can do and finding my delivery again," Nola said. "I'm trying to stay with my plan. I just try to have good work weeks in between each game and stay healthy.

"I think it's just getting ahead in counts and getting the leadoff hitter out. I think that's been key for me. It definitely makes pitching more fun and less stressful when you do that."

Nola will head home to Louisiana following Sunday's series finale against the Padres. He will relax a few days, then rejoin the team for a road trip through Milwaukee and Miami. He hopes to keep the ball rolling in the second half, and if he does, the Phillies will have one less thing to worry about looking toward their future.

"I'm just trying to go out and do my job, do my part," Nola said.

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.

Philadelphia Phillies, Aaron Nola