PHILADELPHIA -- Aaron Nola is quietly becoming that pitcher for the Phillies.Nola is giving his teammates the feeling that they have a chance to win every time he steps on the mound. Like, a legitimate chance to win. The Phillies have not had a starter like that since they traded
PHILADELPHIA -- Aaron Nola is quietly becoming that pitcher for the Phillies.
Nola is giving his teammates the feeling that they have a chance to win every time he steps on the mound. Like, a legitimate chance to win. The Phillies have not had a starter like that since they traded Cole Hamels in July 2015.
"I always expect the best from him," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said following Monday night's 6-1 victory over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. "I expect Nola to have a good outing every time he goes out there. That's just where I'm at with him."
Nola allowed one run on five hits and struck out six over seven innings against the Braves. He is 7-4 with a 2.70 ERA over his past 13 starts, and that includes his previous two outings before Monday night that saw him allow a combined 12 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings.
"I tried to throw those two outings away," Nola said.
The 24-year-old threw 70 out of 100 pitches for strikes, including 17 first-pitch strikes to the 25 Braves he faced. He induced 13 swings and misses, including 11 on his curveball.
"I think first-pitch strikes and getting the leadoff hitter out was a big key for me tonight," Nola said.
Nola also helped him own cause offensively. Pedro Florimon stood on third with one out after tripling to lead off in the bottom of the third inning when Nola stepped into the box. Hitting .028 (1-for-36) this season and .045 (4-for-89) in his career, Nola hit a 2-2 fastball up the middle for a single to score Florimon and give the Phillies a 1-0 lead.
It was Nola's first RBI since July 26, 2015, when he knocked in a run against the Cubs in the second start of his career.
"I know I was on a 20-something-game slump," said Nola, whose last hit came in his first start of the season on April 8. "That felt pretty good. I was trying to put the ball in play there. Guy on third, one out, I didn't want to strike out."
But, of course, Nola is not paid to hit. He is paid to pitch. He is 22-20 with a 3.94 ERA in 55 career starts, but the Phillies believe Nola is more in line with the guy that has pitched so well since the middle of June.
"It seems like every five days he gives us a chance to win," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp 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.