The Phillies have hit seven home runs the last two games.
But maybe not as impressive as the starting pitching.
The Phillies have beaten the previously red-hot San Francisco Giants two nights in a row on the strength of 13 2/3 innings of one-run, 21-strikeout pitching from starters Zach Eflin and Aaron Nola. The duo has successfully cooled off a Giants lineup that entered the series having averaged 5.6 runs per game, third most in the majors, since April 20.
Nola pitched a gem — seven innings, five hits, one run, no walks and a career-high 12 strikeouts — to lead a 4-2 win on Tuesday night (see first take). That came 24 hours after Eflin struck out nine in 6 2/3 shutout innings in Monday night’s 11-0 win.
Nola is 5-1 in eight starts this season and his ERA of 2.05 ranks in the top five in the NL. Over his last two starts, he has walked one and struck out 19 in 14 1/3 innings.
The right-hander, a month shy of his 25th birthday, had a full bag of tricks Tuesday night. He got nine swing and misses on his four-seam fastball and nine more on his changeup on his way to a staggering 26 for the game.
“We saw tonight what the combination of poise and stuff equals,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “It’s a calm, cool confidence, plus three pitches that you can command and two that are really playing up right now in a special way — the curveball and the changeup.
“Nola continues to flash the 94 (mph) early in the game and I think that just makes the opposition respect the fastball. They have to be aware of it. And then you have two plus pitches in the changeup and the curveball and that makes that fastball even more effective.
“I was looking at [the Giants'] lineup before the game. They have All-Stars and borderline Hall of Famers they’re throwing out there. It’s an impressive lineup. It was pretty impressive to see Nola get some of those swings.”
Nola, as usual, treated one of the best starts of his career with all the postgame enthusiasm of a librarian shelving books.
“That’s a veteran lineup so my main key was to get ahead,” he said. “You don’t want to fall behind on those guys.
“I had all my pitches going tonight.”
Particularly the changeup, a pitcher’s great equalizer.
“The past few games I feel like it’s the best it’s been in my career,” Nola said.
The Giants took a 1-0 lead on Nola in the top of the second inning, but Aaron Altherr evened the score with a homer against Derek Holland in the bottom of the inning.
“Huge homer from Altherr to answer back,” Kapler said. “I think that was one of the things that propelled Nola and instilled a whole bunch of confidence in our dugout.”
Carlos Santana, who has three doubles, a triple and three homers in his last seven games, and Jorge Alfaro also homered. Odubel Herrera had a pair of hits and has reached base safely in 37 straight games, dating to last season. He is hitting .350 with a .934 OPS over that span (see more stats).
One more interesting stat dating to last season: Nola is 12-3 with a 2.15 ERA in his last 15 starts at Citizens Bank Park. He’s scheduled to pitch again Sunday against the Mets in the final game of the homestand.