Nola struts stuff, returns to peak form in series-clinching win

October 5th, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- knows as well as anybody. He knows his team well, too.

Before Game 1 of the National League Wild Card Series between the Phillies and Marlins on Tuesday night, Realmuto discussed Nola’s struggles this season and his recent improvements. He said he felt good about Nola in Game 2, which made him feel good about the Phils’ chances in October.

“The Phillies are best when Nola’s [at] his best,” Realmuto said.

Nola pitched seven scoreless innings in Wednesday night’s 7-1 victory over the Marlins in Game 2, clinching the best-of-three series and sending the Phillies to a NL Division Series rematch against the Braves. Nola allowed only three hits, struck out three and walked none.

“That’s the Nola that we ride on, the Nola that carries a team,” Realmuto said. “When he goes out and throws strikes like that and pounds the strike zone, when he goes out and has quick innings, that just gives us so much confidence.”

Nola is just the second pitcher in Phillies history to throw seven or more scoreless innings in a series-clinching victory. Cole Hamels threw a shutout in Game 3 of the 2010 NLDS against the Reds.

Nola on Wednesday followed Zack Wheeler, who struck out eight and allowed just one run in 6 2/3 innings in Game 1.

It was the second time Wheeler and Nola pitched six-plus innings and allowed one or fewer runs in back-to-back postseason games. They also did it last year in the NL Wild Card Series against St. Louis. Pedro Martinez and Cliff Lee are the only other Phillies pitchers to accomplish the feat in Games 2 and 3 of the 2009 NL Championship Series against the Dodgers.

“I just tried my best to follow Wheels up,” Nola said.

Nola struck out Jorge Soler and Josh Bell swinging on curveballs in the first inning. He allowed a double to Jon Berti in the third, but he caught him attempting to steal third.

It was a big play at the time with the game tied.

“I feel like there was a little momentum shift,” Nola said.

Nola had runners on first and second with one out in the fifth, but he induced an inning-ending double play. He was never seriously threatened after that.

Nola’s Game 2 performance might be the most encouraging development in this series. He went 12-9 with a 4.46 ERA in 32 starts in the regular season. The 30-year-old right-hander surrendered a career high in hits, runs and home runs. His strikeout rate (25.5 percent) was its lowest since 2016, while his walk rate (5.7 percent) was its highest since '20.

But Nola is 1-0 with a 1.37 ERA in his past three starts, including the NL Wild Card Series-clinching gem and the NL Wild Card-deciding victory on Sept. 26.

“It’s Noles,” Bryson Stott said. “You know what you're going to get. I mean, there were a couple starts maybe that he wasn't quite himself, and he knew that and went back to work. Any time he has the ball, we have all the confidence in the world that he's going to get those outs that we need. He's one of the best in the game.”

Nola’s next start will be next Wednesday in Game 3 of the NLDS.

“I feel so proud of him,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “He went through a lot this year, because he struggled at times and there were the home runs and the big innings and things like that. But he just kept grinding and he kept fighting, kept working. Finally he found some stuff at the end of the year, and he's been lights out.

“I expected this. I really did, because I know who he is. I've seen him do this before, and he just came through. But I'm so proud of him. He's a warrior.”