Phillies

Aaron Nola has look of an organizational building block, strikes out 10 in beating baseball's best offense

Aaron Nola has look of an organizational building block, strikes out 10 in beating baseball's best offense

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The trade of reliever Pat Neshek to the Colorado Rockies was the headline grabber in the Phillies' world late Wednesday night (see story), but the most important occurrence of the evening happened on the little hump in the middle of the diamond at Citizens Bank Park.

Aaron Nola continued his mid-season surge with six shutout innings in a 9-0 win over the Houston Astros (see Instant Replay). The 24-year-old right-hander scattered four hits, walked one and struck out 10, a career high.

Over his last seven starts, Nola is 5-1 with a 1.49 ERA. He has struck out 60 batters in that span and walked just 14. Opposing batters have hit just .189.

Nola's recent success has come in the wake of an elbow injury that shut him down for the final two months of last season, some inconsistency early this season and a trip to the disabled list for an upper-back strain. Nola is pitching like the organizational building block that the Phillies projected him to be when they selected him in the first round (seventh overall) of the 2014 draft.

"I can't say enough about him, he's been outstanding," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We're all really happy about the progress he's made. He's turned the corner, I think. I don’t have enough accolades for him."
 
Nola didn't beat just any team in his 16th start of the season.

The Astros have the second-best record in baseball at 67-34 and they lead the majors in just about every important offensive category, including runs, hits and homers. Sure, the Astros were without All-Stars Carlos Correa and George Springer — both American League MVP candidates — and standout Alex Bregman, but they still had a formidable lineup, led by hitting machine Jose Altuve, who ran his hitting streak to 18 games. He's hitting a cool .513 over that span.

"They're pretty good," Nola said. "I just had to stay with my plan that I've used the last few outings — get the leadoff hitter out and throw first-pitch strikes. I couldn't change anything just because they're in first place."

Nola used a three-pitch mix: a sinking fastball, curveball and his improved changeup. He finished off seven of his 10 strikeout victims with curveballs.

"I think location is important," he said. "You can have stuff but it might not get them as much as location. That's kind of what I was focused on. Making pitches in quality locations."

Nola's batterymate, Cameron Rupp, had a big night with a pair of two-run homers. The Phillies had nine extra-base hits and were 5 for 18 with runners in scoring position a night after going 0 for 10 in those situations.

"We got pitches to hit and we didn't miss them," Rupp said. "It was fun."

Rupp especially had fun catching Nola.

"Cy Young," he joked. "He's been outstanding the last month and a half. He's back to being the old Aaron that he was when he first came up. He's a guy that can lead a pitching staff. He knows how to pitch. He's got three pitches that he can put you away with. He's got a good fastball and his curveball has been great and now his changeup — he's learned how to use it and put guys away with it. When you do that, you're going to have a lot of success."

Nick Williams out briefly with broken nose; Pat Neshek close to being 'biggest bullpen acquisition'

Nick Williams out briefly with broken nose; Pat Neshek close to being 'biggest bullpen acquisition'

A few interesting items on the injury front from Citizens Bank Park:

• Nick Williams is not in Tuesday night’s lineup. He left Monday night’s game after getting hit in the nose by a ball that ricocheted off the right field wall. At first, it looked like Williams had suffered nothing more than a bloody nose. Further evaluation revealed a break. Both Williams and the Phillies are confident he can avoid the disabled list and return very soon.

“I thought I could play today,” Williams said. “I’m ready.”

It does not appear as if Williams suffered a concussion though the team was awaiting the results of some tests.

“As of right now, we don't think there is a concussion,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Our feeling is that he's going to be able to go [Wednesday]. This is nothing long term; it's not a DL. But we do want to be careful with the concussion stuff for today."

• Reliever Pat Neshek, who has not pitched this season because of a shoulder injury then later a forearm injury, is making good progress in Florida. He could be out on a minor-league rehab assignment next week and be back in early July.

“When Pat thinks he’s ready and our evaluators think he’s ready, we’ll gladly get him here right away,” general manager Matt Klentak said. “I couldn’t tell you if that’s going to be one or two outings or four or five outings.”

Klentak signed Neshek to a two-year, $16.25 million contract in the offseason. He believes the veteran right-hander will provide a big boost to the bullpen.

“That may be the single biggest bullpen acquisition any team makes — Pat Neshek rejoining us,” Klentak said. “This guy was as good a setup reliever as there was in all of baseball for six months last season.”

• Mickey Moniak has been out of the Clearwater lineup recently. He had his wisdom teeth removed. He is working his way back into action. Moniak, 20, was the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft.

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Third overall pick Alec Bohm off to hot start in his first game

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Third overall pick Alec Bohm off to hot start in his first game

Just 15 days ago, Alec Bohm heard his name called by the Philadelphia Phillies as the third pick in the 2018 MLB draft. Today, Bohm didn't waste any time showing why the Phillies signed him for $5.85 million. In fact, he showed it on the very first pitch of the very first at-bat of his professional career.

Batting second for the GCL Phillies, Bohm ripped the first pitch he saw to right field for an RBI-triple. The hit came off Anderson Munoz, a 19-year-old pitcher in the Yankees organization. Bohm ended the game 1 for 2, reaching on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the third before the game was suspended.

Bohm, 21, is coming off a big season at Wichita State, where he hit .339 with a .436 on-base percentage and 16 homers as a junior.

Last week, Phillies scouting director Johnny Almaraz said that Bohm will start in rookie ball with the GCL Phillies before making his way to Single-A Williamsport with the hope that he will finish the year at Single-A Lakewood, who have already clinched a spot in the South Atlantic League playoffs (see story). This is the same path Adam Haseley, the eighth overall pick in the 2017 MLB draft, took last year before starting his first full season of professional baseball in Clearwater.

As a 21-year-old who played three years of collegiate baseball, it’s not unfair to expect strong production from Bohm this year, as he will be playing against competition his age or younger than him, for the most part. Two at-bats into his career, he’s already off to a good start.

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