Phillies

Aaron Nola's Cy Young chances take a hit in rare stumble vs. Cubs

Aaron Nola's Cy Young chances take a hit in rare stumble vs. Cubs

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Aaron Nola looked incredible early Sunday, striking out six Cubs in a row from the first through third innings with a wicked curveball and a dancing two-seam fastball.

Then things unraveled.

Nola, for the first time since September of 2015, his rookie year, allowed three home runs in a game. He was taken deep by Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rizzo within the span of three batters, then Javier Baez launched one to left-center two innings later.

Nola had the second-lowest home run rate in the majors entering Sunday's game. He had allowed just four homers in 91 innings at Citizens Bank Park before the Murphy bomb. 

"The way Nola came out firing, it kinda looked like we were going to see something historic today, the way he was getting after their hitters," manager Gabe Kapler said. "It turned into an 11-punchout game against the National League's best offense.

"In a couple ways, it was a really special performance from Nola. In others, you've got to tip your cap to their hitters."

This start will surely affect his Cy Young chances. Nola struck out 11 but allowed four runs in 5⅔ innings as his ERA jumped to 2.23. Jacob deGrom is at 1.68 and Max Scherzer is at 2.22 with 249 strikeouts.

The Phillies won 20 of Nola’s first 26 starts this season but have lost two in a row behind him for the first time all season.

It looks like Nola will have five more starts this season: Mets, Nationals, Mets, Braves, Braves again.

Scherzer (home vs. Cardinals) and deGrom (at Dodgers) both pitch Monday night.

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At The Yard Podcast: Mounting injuries; Edwin Diaz could've been a Phillie; bat flips

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At The Yard Podcast: Mounting injuries; Edwin Diaz could've been a Phillie; bat flips

On this edition of At The Yard, Corey Seidman and Jim Salisbury discuss Nick Pivetta being sent down to AAA. How much concern should there be with Aaron Nola's slow start?

What impact will Roman Quinn have? How does he fit in this lineup?

Also, do the Phillies need to make a move to help their bullpen? And this week's version of the MLB bat flip controversy.

0:30 - Nick Pivetta sent down to AAA.
5:00 - How much concern do the guys have over Aaron Nola's start?
8:00 - Can Jake Arrieta sustain this level?
10:00 - How does Roman Quinn fit in the lineup?
13:00 - The importance of a healthy David Robertson.
17:00 - Do the Phillies need to make a move if Robertson isn't healthy moving forward?
19:30 - How involved were the Phillies with Edwin Diaz?
22:30 - This week in bat flip controversy.

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Similar starting pitchers open a fun Phillies series at Coors Field

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Similar starting pitchers open a fun Phillies series at Coors Field

Remember how terribly the Phillies' four-game series in Colorado went last season? This should be a different story.

Last September, the Phils were swept at Coors Field and outscored 39-7 by a playoff-bound Rockies team. That sweep ensured the Phils would finish with a losing record.

Expectations were high for the 2019 Rockies but they've started off on the wrong foot, going 6-12 in their first six series. They began 2-0, then lost 12 of 13 before winning three in a row.

The 11-6 Phillies have gone 4-1-1 in their six series, five of which have come against NL East teams.

When: 8:40 p.m. — Pregame Live starts at 8

Where: NBC Sports Philadelphia+ and streaming live on the MyTeams app and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com 

Pitching matchup: Zach Eflin (2-1, 3.94) vs. Kyle Freeland (1-3, 5.40)

Facing Freeland

The Phillies will see lefty Kyle Freeland, who last year had maybe the best season ever for a Rockies starting pitcher, going 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA in 33 starts and an astonishing 10-2 with a 2.40 ERA at Coors Field. The narrative with Freeland is that because he's a Denver native, he's used to pitching at altitude.

Last year's fourth-place Cy Young finisher is off to a rough start. After a gem on opening day, he's allowed 13 runs and 29 baserunners in 14⅔ innings, failing to make it past the fifth inning.

There was a school of thought that Freeland was bound for regression this season because of his home park, the extended book the league now has on him, and his lack of consistent swing-and-miss stuff.

With Freeland, you will see mostly sinkers, cutters and four-seam fastballs. Those three pitches have accounted for more than 85% of his repertoire this season. He's a lanky, 6-foot-4 lefty with a three-quarters delivery who has good movement.

The cutter is the pitch that led him to so much success a season ago. He used it to jam right-handed hitters or backdoor them on the outside corner for strike three. He also used it against lefties, which you don't see all the time because a cutter in the strike zone against a same-handed hitter tends to move directly toward the barrel of the bat. 

Freeland's opponents have still struggled with the cutter this season but have teed off on his fastball, hitting .348 with three homers, three doubles and a triple.

Who's in, who's out?

Jean Segura and Odubel Herrera exited the Phillies' wins Tuesday and Wednesday with hamstring injuries. Segura is being considered day to day, while Herrera was taken out as a precautionary measure. Gabe Kapler described Herrera's injury as a hamstring cramp. Herrera was his typical smiley self in the Phillies' clubhouse after Wednesday's game.

The issue is, though, that the Phillies can't afford to carry two position players who both need to sit for a few days. It would leave them with a three-man bench in a four-game series that you know will feature a good number of pinch-hitters and/or early exits for pitchers.

We'll see this afternoon what the Phillies decide to do, whether one or both of Segura and Herrera are ready to return or if they have to send one to the IL to free up a spot for another position player.

Which Eflin shows?

Zach Eflin lived on the corners in his first two starts against the Nationals and Twins before a surprising stumble last Saturday in Miami. 

Eflin's outing showed that even the worst of teams can hit a fastball that catches too much plate or a breaking ball that hangs. 

It will be difficult to judge Eflin too strongly one way or another tonight because of what Coors Field does to most pitchers. He's started there twice, allowing two runs in six innings as a rookie in 2016 and five runs in 2⅔ innings last September.

The Rockies' lineup isn't currently as formidable as it was last season. Daniel Murphy, a big free-agent signing with batting title potential in that ballpark, broke his finger two games into the season and has been out since. Starting outfielder David Dahl is also on the IL.

The three big threats in Colorado's lineup are Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon. All three are off to relatively slow Aprils, but Arenado and Story are coming on. The Rockies are 0-5 at home but were eager to get back to Coors Field after spending most of their month on the road.

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