Aaron Nola was dialed-in Sunday afternoon and Jean Segura made one of the Phillies’ most clutch defensive plays of the season to lead them to a win over the Braves and a series split.
Nola, who stunningly entered with the majors’ fifth-highest ERA among qualifying starting pitchers, came one out shy of pitching his second shutout of the season. He struck out nine, allowed four hits and did not walk a batter in the Phillies' 2-1 win. He threw 116 pitches.
Manager Joe Girardi let Nola hit for himself at 106 pitches in the bottom of the eighth inning. Nola got two quick outs in the ninth to nearly complete the shutout, but Austin Riley spoiled it with an opposite-field home run.
"I actually felt my best today that I have all year," Nola said. "More in sync with everything. I want to be pushed into the late innings. I knew I was around 100 pitches or so. I feel like I can go 115 to 120. I expect to be going deep into games the rest of the way."
Ranger Suarez picked up the final out for the save.
Riley was the only Brave who gave Nola trouble. He had two doubles and a homer. The rest of Atlanta's lineup went 1 for 27.
You could tell early that Nola had his good stuff working. The Braves swung through 10 of his first 42 pitches and had only one runner in scoring position against him until the seventh inning, when Riley hit his second double of the day.
The next batter, Dansby Swanson, laced a groundball up the middle that would have tied the game, but Segura dove to his right, fielded the ball and popped up in enough time to nab Swanson. Nola navigated his way out of the jam and waited for Segura to come off the field to thank him.
"That was unbelievable," Nola said. "Segura made a heck of a play. That was a big part of the game right there."
Segura made another impressive play in the eighth inning, diving to his left to field a grounder and retire Pablo Sandoval.
This was a much-needed bounce-back outing for Nola, who since 2018 has started more games against the Braves (17) than any National League pitcher has against any National League team.
The Phillies had been 4-8 in his last 12 starts and two of those wins were because they scored 13 and 15 runs. Nola entered the day with a 5.86 ERA over his last dozen starts.
This looked more like the Nola who went 34-18 with a 3.13 ERA from 2018-20.
"I think this year’s been up and down for me, home and away," Nola said. "It’s nothing mental, just how it’s worked out this year. Today felt good and that was a big win for us."
He projects to start 13 more games and the Phillies, with such a thin pitching staff, need to win at least eight or nine of them.
Segura put the Phils on the board with a solo home run to left field in the fourth inning. They did not do much hitting, either, against Braves right-hander Touki Toussaint, who struck out a career-high 10 over seven innings.
Ronald Torreyes, who continues to produce on both sides and make a difference for this team, added crucial insurance with a solo home run in the eighth inning off of Chris Martin.
The Phils are in second place at 49-49, a game ahead of the Braves and 3½ behind the Mets.
The Phillies move on to a four-game series at home against the Nationals.
The Braves have a five-game road series against the division-leading Mets with a doubleheader Monday.
Here are the listed pitching matchups for the Phils’ series:
Monday night at 7:05: Spencer Howard (0-2, 5.11) vs. Joe Ross (5-8, 4.02)
Tuesday night at 7:05: LHP Matt Moore (0-2, 5.79) vs. Erick Fedde (4-7, 4.88)
Wednesday night at 7:05: Zack Wheeler (8-5, 2.37) vs. LHP Patrick Corbin (6-9, 5.71)
Thursday afternoon at 1:05: Vince Velasquez (3-5, 5.54) vs. TBA
The Nationals scratched Max Scherzer, a trade candidate in the final year of his contract, on Saturday with triceps discomfort.