Another gem for Aaron Nola, but Joaquin Benoit, Phillies suffer late loss to Brewers

Another gem for Aaron Nola, but Joaquin Benoit, Phillies suffer late loss to Brewers


MILWAUKEE -- As the Phillies move into the second half of this rebuilding season, their focus — aside from winning games — is identifying building blocks for the future.

And it looks like they may have found a big one in their starting rotation.

Aaron Nola pitched a gem Saturday night, holding the NL Central-leading Brewers to two runs on seven hits and a pair of walks while striking out seven over six innings in the Phillies' 3-2 loss (see Instant Replay). His strong work was undone in the eighth inning when Joaquin Benoit served up a homer to Travis Shaw the broke a 2-2 tie. Benoit picked up the loss.

"You hold this team to two runs over six innings, you've done a good job," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said of Nola. 

Nola missed a chance to improve to 3-0 lifetime against Milwaukee by serving up a game-tying home run to Hernan Perez in his final inning but has left an impression over his last five outings, going 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA during that stretch.

"Just getting ahead in the count and getting the leadoff hitter out has been key for me," Nola said. "Those are the biggest thing that takes stress off you each inning. Tonight, I let some leadoff guys on and didn't get strike one enough."

A first-round pick of the Phillies (seventh overall) in the 2014 draft, Nola made a strong impression as a rookie, going 6-2 with a 3.59 ERA in 13 starts in 2015. He made 20 starts for the team last season and went 6-9 but saw his ERA jump to 4.78 thanks to a rough six-week stretch during which he went 0-4 with a 13.50 mark in five starts.

A sprained ulnar collateral ligament combined with a mild flexor strain in his pitching elbow brought his season to an end in late July and after a rough spring training this season (0-3, 8.38 ERA), he took the victory in two of his first three starts before hitting another rough patch that saw him go 1-5 with a 4.89 ERA over his next six outings.

He's bounced back in a big way since.

"I'm really happy for him and for us because he really turned it around," Mackanin said. "When he started off in the big leagues, he looked like a really good find. Then he went through that period when he was searching. He had the arm issue, the command issue then he got out of it and now he's better than ever. That's a real bonus."

Mackanin looks at Nola and the way he worked through adversity early in his career as an example the rest of the young players on his roster can learn from as they continue their development.

"Just because you start off real good doesn't mean it's going to continue," he said. "You have to battle through any issues you have, which he did, and now he's learned and gone through that process and is better for it. That's what everybody has to do. (Nick) Pivetta's gotta do it, (Ben) Lively's gotta do it. They all have to do it. Even the hitters."

The Phillies have had some top-notch talent anchoring its rotation over the last decade. Nola isn't quite at the level of Cole Hamels or Roy Halliday just yet, but he's showing signs that he could get to that point in the not-so-distant future.

"I try to do everything I can to win every time I go out there," Nola said. "I do every thing I can to keep the ball low, give up the least runs I can and just battle. I'm going to battle my butt off every time I go out there and give them a chance to win."

Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

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Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

Gabe Kapler on Friday added to his coaching staff by naming Jim Gott the Phillies' bullpen coach.

Gott was the minor-league pitching coordinator for the Angels the last five seasons and the pitching coach for the Arizona League Angels the three years prior to that role.

He played for the Blue Jays, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers over 14 major-league seasons as a starter and reliever. Gott, now 58 years old, compiled a 3.87 ERA while making 96 starts and converting 91 saves.

Kapler and the Phillies still need to name a pitching coach and first-base coach. Last week, they named Dusty Wathan third-base coach and hired John Mallee as hitting coach, while retaining Rick Kranitz, who was the assistant pitching coach last season (see story). He could fill the main pitching coach vacancy, although his role is currently to be determined.

In 2017, Bob McClure served the Phillies as pitching coach and Mickey Morandini was first-base coach.

MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

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MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

Houston Astros dynamo Jose Altuve has won the American League MVP award, towering over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge by a wide margin.

The 5-foot-6 Altuve drew 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Altuve batted a major league-best .346. He hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs, scored 112 times, stole 32 bases and showed a sharp glove at second base.

The 6-foot-7 Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year award Monday. He set a rookie record with 52 home runs.

Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians finished third. The award was announced Thursday.

Altuve helped lead the Astros to their first World Series championship. Voting for these honors was completed before the postseason began.

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton won the NL MVP award, barely edging Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

In the closest MVP vote since 1979, Stanton became only the sixth player to win from a losing team. Stanton led the big leagues with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs (see full story).

MLB: Manfred says pace changes will happen with or without union
Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

There are ongoing talks for a new posting system with Japan to replace the deal that expired Nov. 1, one that would allow star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani to leave the Pacific League's Nippon Ham Fighters to sign with a big league team (see full story).

Mariners: Team makes trade, raises available money for Japan's Otani​
The Seattle Mariners have gained more flexibility if they want to try to sign star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani.

They acquired an additional $500,000 for their international signing bonus pool from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira.

Otani, a 23-year-old right-hander, would be limited to a minor league contract with a signing bonus under Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement. The trade announced Thursday increases the Mariners' available money for a signing bonus to $1,557,500. Seattle has spent $3,942,500 on bonuses in the signing year that started July 2 from a pool that rose to $5.5 million with the trade.

The 24-year-old Vieira made his major league debut with a scoreless inning against Baltimore on Aug. 14, his only big league appearance. He was 2-3 with two saves and a 3.72 ERA in 29 games this year for Double-A Arkansas and 0-1 with two saves and a 4.58 ERA in 12 games for Triple-A Tacoma.

Chicago is restricted to a maximum $300,000 signing bonus because it exceeded its pool in a previous year under the old labor contract.