Nola braves elements, notches quality start to secure series win

April 10th, 2024

ST. LOUIS -- 's wish for ’s next start is 75 degrees and sunny.

He’s earned it.

Nola has pitched through almost every element in his first three starts in 2024. Cold, wind, rain. None are a pitcher’s friend. He pitched through rain in Wednesday’s 4-3 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, giving the Phillies a 4-2 road trip to move them to .500 on the young season. Nola allowed three hits, two runs and three walks in six innings. He struck out three.

“I just tried to make pitches and grind through it,” Nola said.

How bad was it? Realmuto saw Nola slipping on the mound as he warmed up before the game. Nola, who is known for his excellent command, fell behind 3-0 to three of the first four batters he faced. Nola, who relies on his legs to generate power with his delivery, shortened his stride to avoid injury.

“The consistency and the steadiness of the rain, the ball was getting wet on the way back to you,” said Jeff Hoffman, who earned the save. “It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, it’s going to miss a few drops here and there.’”

But Nola is a pitcher’s pitcher. He pitched on Wednesday to improve to 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA.

“I told him that those are my most fun starts to catch with guys who grind through like that,” Realmuto said. “He’s not throwing with command, that’s not Aaron Nola. You knew today was going to be tough. You can’t pitch them how you normally would because the stuff’s not as sharp. The command isn’t there. You have to try to bite off bigger parts of the plate and just trust they’re going to hit it at guys.”

Nola’s four-seam fastball averaged 89.5 mph, which was the second-lowest mark of his career. Nola’s fastball averaged 88.9 mph on July 28, 2016, which was his final start before the Phillies placed him on the injured list with a strained right elbow.

“Everybody’s velocities were down today,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “Nola, even though his stuff was down today, he grinded, man. He got it done.”

Nola is healthy, by the way. If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have pitched into the sixth inning, when conditions improved and he saw an uptick in velocity.

Nola threw only 12 pitches that registered as 90 mph or faster on Wednesday. Eight of which came in the sixth.

“I’m not throwing [92 mph] the first five innings, so there’s no point in me trying to throw [hard],” he said. “I might throw it to the backstop. It’s different when you’ve got a damp ball vs. a dry ball. For me, when I can stride a little bit farther like I usually do and know I’m not going to slip, I can command the ball a little bit better. I think that was the difference between the first five and the sixth inning.”

The Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the first. A couple Cardinals solo home runs tied the game. The Phils scored twice in the sixth to take the lead.

The Phillies have not hit for power through the season’s first 12 games. They had eight hits Wednesday. All were singles.

“In the sixth, three opposite-field hits,” Thomson said. “That’s what you’ve got to do. If you’re not getting slug, you better be able to use the field.”

Realmuto went 2-for-5 with two runs scored. He hit the ball hard three times, a day after he took a ball to the neck while trying to block a pitch in the dirt. Realmuto stumbled on the field before leaving the game on Tuesday. He suffered no concussion, although he had a headache when he went to bed.

He woke up on Wednesday feeling fine, so he played.

“That guy is a gamer, man,” Nola said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen J.T. come out of a game. For him to come out of a game, it must have really got him good. To get that guy out of the game I guess you’ve got to hit him in the throat.”

Realmuto grinded. So did Nola and the offense.

“We haven’t played our best baseball yet, that’s for sure,” Realmuto said. “There’s a lot of good players on this ball club. We haven’t started as well as we wanted but we’re going to be fine.”

Nola is slated to make his next start on Monday against the Rockies. The early forecast? 78 degrees and mostly sunny.