'Nasty' Nola rewriting September narrative

Phillies right-hander lowers ERA this month to 2.08 with 6 scoreless innings vs. Braves

September 24th, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- had some of his best stuff of the year in his 30th start of the season Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.

It came in his fourth start in September.


It is supposed to be Nola’s bugaboo month, but he stymied Atlanta in a 9-1 victory to cut the Phillies’ magic number to nine with 12 games to play. The Phils have a half-game lead over the Padres for the second NL Wild Card spot, and they're 2 1/2 games ahead of the Brewers. That puts Philadelphia essentially 3 1/2 games clear of a postseason spot because it owns the tiebreaker over both San Diego and Milwaukee. If the Phillies (83-67) go just 6-6 (.500) the rest of the way to finish 89-73, Milwaukee (81-70) must go 9-2 (.818) to finish 90-72 to surpass the Phils.

“I feel just as strong as I do every September,” Nola said. “I guess I’m getting the results I want right now. It’s fun right now. We’ve got a chance to win a Wild Card.”

Nola pitched six scoreless innings against the Braves, although he worked for it because he frequently fell behind in the count on his way to throwing 107 pitches (70 strikes). But he struck out eight while allowing four hits and three walks. He got 17 swings and misses, which was his fourth-best mark of the season.

Nola threw a 95.4 mph sinker to Austin Riley and a 95.2 mph sinker to Matt Olson in the first inning. They were his seventh- and eighth-hardest pitches of the season. He had not thrown a pitch harder than 95.1 mph since June 23.

The right-hander later struck out Olson on a 94.8 mph fastball, which was another one of Nola's hardest pitches of the season.

“I think the wind might have been blowing toward the plate,” Nola said. “I think it gave me a little bit extra.”

Nola entered this month with a 4.60 career ERA in September/October, which was almost a full run higher than his 3.63 ERA. It included a 6.19 ERA in his final six starts in 2021, a 6.60 ERA in his final three starts in ‘20 and a 6.51 ERA in final five starts in ‘19.

But guess what? Nola is four starts into this September with the Phillies’ best chance to make the postseason since ‘11, and he just might be putting that narrative to bed.

He is 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA this month following Friday’s gem, and Philadelphia is 3-1 in those starts.

“It doesn’t look any different,” Rhys Hoskins said. “I know the results are different this September than they have in the past. I still see him doing the same things in between his starts. Just a testament to his work ethic, his perseverance, right? We knew that we were going to need him, especially with [Zack] Wheeler just coming back. He stepped up. He was absolutely nasty tonight. He kept those guys off balance.”

Nola is scheduled to make two more starts in the regular season: Sept. 29 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field and Oct. 4 against the Astros at Minute Maid Park. If the Phillies clinch a postseason berth before Game 161, which is Nola’s final start, they can pull him from that one to set him up to pitch Game 2 of the NL Wild Card Series on Oct. 8.

Wheeler could pitch Game 1 on Oct. 7.

Nola (201 career starts) and Wheeler (193 career starts) have the second- and third-most starts among active pitchers without a postseason appearance. Jean Segura (1,317 career games) and J.T. Realmuto (995) rank first and second in games among active players without a postseason appearance.

Hoskins has played 656 games without a postseason appearance. He hit a two-out two-run double in the second inning to hand the Phillies a 4-0 lead. He added a two-run home run to left in the fourth to make it 6-0.

The Phillies can win the four-game series against Atlanta with a victory on Saturday. It would be something, after the Braves swept them last weekend in a three-game series at Truist Park. The Phils lost again on Tuesday to Toronto to extend their losing streak to five games.

The sky was falling then.

But the Phillies have won three consecutive games since. They got an encouraging performance on Wednesday from Wheeler, who was making his first start since Aug. 20. They got another one Thursday from Ranger Suárez.

Then, Nola on Friday.

“We’ve got to stay focused,” Nola said. “We can’t get too ahead of ourselves and worry too much about the other teams. All we can do is play our game. At the end of the day, it will work out how it should.”