Nola in complete control in career-best outing
MIAMI -- Aaron Nola's stellar outing of eight scoreless innings in Sunday's 2-0 Phillies win at Marlins Park supported the biggest lesson that the rookie has learned since his callup on July 21.
"Just pound the strike zone," Nola said. "It's easy to say, but getting behind big league hitters, it's tough to come back. You have to make that perfect pitch. You have to try to make them hit a weak ball. But the defense is better here -- they've played really great behind me this whole year.
"That's one thing I've learned. Once you start getting yourself in jams and walking guys like I did against Toronto, bad things can happen."
Against the Blue Jays on Tuesday, Nola (4-1, 3.59 ERA) walked a career-high four batters in just five innings as he took a no-decision. However, it was a different story on Sunday, when the Phillies' No. 2 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, threw 65 of his career-high 100 pitches for strikes.
In going a career-high eight scoreless innings, Nola didn't allow a run for the first time in seven big league starts, while giving up the fewest number of hits (three) and tying a career high in strikeouts (six).
"He just pitched super," interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "His biggest strength is his ability to command his fastball. It's really a good trait he's got."
At one point, the 22-year-old retired 12 of 13 Marlins hitters.
"I felt like I was getting ahead of guys and really pounding the strike zone and keeping the ball as low as possible to be a strike," Nola said. "I felt like I did that for the most part, and it led to ground balls and some pop flies."
In his final two innings, Nola struck out two in the seventh before fanning Casey McGehee to end the eighth. All three strikeouts came on another pitch he was able to command well -- his curveball.
"I liked his breaking ball more than in the past," Mackanin said. "He can set that up. When you can command your fastball on both sides of the plate, the hitters are conscious of that."
Nola said he was ready for the ninth, but Mackanin wanted to play it safe, considering the rookie's career-high pitch count. Still, if Nola continues to draw from his biggest lesson and pound the strike zone, Mackanin is certain of one thing.
"Down the road, he's gonna get his complete-game shutouts," he said. "He just didn't need to get it today."