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'Resilient' Nola keeps Boston bats in check

Ace fans seven, yields just two runs en route to 12th win
@jessicacamerato
August 20, 2019

BOSTON -- Talk about consistency. Aaron Nola took his previous outing, a seven-inning gem last Wednesday against the Cubs, and nearly replicated it in the Phillies' 3-2 win over the Red Sox on Tuesday night at Fenway Park. • Box score "He's so tough," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "Man,

BOSTON -- Talk about consistency.

Aaron Nola took his previous outing, a seven-inning gem last Wednesday against the Cubs, and nearly replicated it in the Phillies' 3-2 win over the Red Sox on Tuesday night at Fenway Park.

Box score

"He's so tough," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "Man, is he resilient."

The right-hander threw 104 pitches over seven frames, striking out seven while allowing two runs (including a home run to Jackie Bradley Jr.) off four hits and one walk. With the victory, he improved to 12-3 on the season.

The strong performance was practically a mirror image of last Wednesday's start: Seven punchouts, one run (a homer), three hits and one walk over 105 pitches.

Nola has held his opponents to two runs or less over seven innings in three out of his last four starts. So how has he been so reliable in his fifth Major League season?

"Making quality pitches," Nola said. "Trying not to be too predictable and trying to get ahead. Getting ahead is the number one thing and get the leadoff hitter out. It really takes a lot of stress off the pitcher."

Nola quieted the offense of a Red Sox team that had been on a five-game winning streak. He allowed a two-run shot to Jackie Bradley Jr. in the third, but the Phillies' ace gave up just two hits after that over four scoreless innings.

"He's good, man. He's good," Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said. "His curveball is pretty big. He keeps you off-balance. He doesn't leave a lot of balls in the middle of the plate. Kind of a weird delivery and just kept us off-balance."

Nola mixed a fastball, knuckle curveball and changeup to catch the Red Sox for 13 swinging strikes and 16 called strikes. His four-seam fastball reached 94.9 mph, according to Statcast.

"I think he's able to mix three plus pitches -- there aren't many starting in baseball that are able to do that -- and then command all three of them," Kapler said. "I think it's the preparation between the starts that is unparalleled. I think it's as competitive a package as there is out there."

Nola is 6-2 with a 2.13 ERA in 12 starts dating back to June 21. During that stretch, his opponents are hitting just .181. Interleague Play has suited Nola well, too. He is 5-1 with a 1.60 ERA in 10 Interleague starts since June 27, 2017.

"He's one of the best pitchers in the big leagues," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said.

The 26-year-old Nola is a key piece to the Phillies' postseason push. They improved to 65-60 and are two games back of the second National League Wild Card spot following Tuesday's win. In a season where every game can have playoff implications, Kapler is considering keeping Nola on a five-day schedule, which would keep the right-hander on the mound for the regular-season finale on Sept. 29 against the Marlins. That plan is OK with Nola, who said he would be ready whenever the Phillies call on him to start.

"He's as physically prepared as any pitcher I've been around," Kapler said. "He's as mentally prepared as any pitcher I've been around. I think he's built for this. Quite frankly, we're in a playoff race and he's far and away our best and most dependable pitcher."

Jessica Camerato is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato.