Phillies 2, Rockies 1: Masterful Aaron Nola ties career high with 12 strikeouts

Phillies 2, Rockies 1: Masterful Aaron Nola ties career high with 12 strikeouts


About three hours before first pitch, manager Gabe Kapler said there is always a feeling within the clubhouse whenever it's Aaron Nola's turn in the rotation.

They call it "Nola Day."

Consider Saturday "Nola and Harper Day."

The right-handed ace struck out 12 over six innings, while Bryce Harper clubbed a no-doubt-about-it home run as the Phillies beat the Rockies, 2-1, on a picturesque afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies are 26-19, first in the National League East, and 17-10 at home.

The Rockies dropped to 20-24 after losing the first two games of this three-game set.

The keys

 • A Rockies lineup scoring over five runs per game was quieted by Nola, who looked like the 2018 version of Nola, when the righty finished third in NL Cy Young voting.

• The Phillies' bullpen, which entered with the NL's third-best ERA (3.88), was massive. Adam Morgan and Seranthony Dominguez got the Phillies out of trouble in the seventh inning. Hector Neris notched a two-inning save.

Phillies relievers have thrown six scoreless innings over the last two games, both one-run wins.

• Rockies right-hander Antonio Senzatela had not seen much of this Phillies lineup, but he battled through five innings. The Phillies, who came in seeing 4.04 pitches per plate appearance, most in the National League, forced Senzatela to throw 101 pitches and four walks.

Nola, have mercy

Nola's first inning was a clear-cut indicator Saturday could be a special start. He painted the corners and struck out the side, all looking, on 13 pitches. In his previous start, he labored through a career-high 38-pitch first inning.

On Saturday, Nola had it all working. His pitches were darting and dipping as everything moved to keep Colorado guessing. His 12 punchouts tied his career high. He scattered eight hits and walked just one over 106 pitches.

This effort came on the heels of Nola matching his shortest outing of the season with three innings in a no-decision against the Brewers.

On Saturday, he was relieved in the seventh with no outs following a leadoff triple and run-scoring double as the Rockies trimmed the Phillies' lead to 2-1. Nola was not yet at 100 pitches and working against the bottom of the order heading into the frame, so Kapler justifiably had no problem sending him back out there for the seventh.

Nola improved to 3-0 with 38 strikeouts and four walks in four career starts against Colorado, which has had a top-10 offense in each of the past five seasons.

Through his first 10 starts last season, Nola was 6-2 with a 2.37 ERA, 57 strikeouts and 14 walks.

This season, he's 4-0 with a 4.47 ERA, 60 strikeouts and 21 walks. He's rounding into form.

Has it landed yet?

 As the Phillies took the field before first pitch, Harper took his typical bow in salute to the fans in the right-field seats.

After seeing one pitch in the bottom of the first inning, he could have easily taken another bow. He put the Phillies ahead, 1-0, with a mammoth home run to a spot baseballs don't often land at Citizens Bank Park (see story).

Harper went 2 for 3 with his big homer, a double and a walk. He has hit safely in four straight games after going 10 for 70 (.143) over his previous 21 games.

Love for the glove

The Phillies had not played cleanly in the field over the previous three games, committing five errors and some lapses in decision-making.

They were sound Saturday. Rhys Hoskins made a sliding catch in foul territory to retire Nolan Arenado during the fourth inning. Maikel Franco made a nice play ranging to his left and throwing out pitcher Senzatela in the fifth inning. He also cut down the potential game-tying run at the plate in the seventh with a 5-2 tag out.

The Phillies are 21-5 when they don't make an error.

At the dish

The Phillies went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base. They registered six hits and five walks

Daniel Murphy, the former Mets and Nationals infielder now with the Rockies, entered 10 for 29 (.345) with three doubles, two homers and a triple lifetime against Nola. He went 0 for 2 with two strikeouts and a walk Saturday vs. Nola.

Can't beat it

A sold-out crowd got a good one. It was 78 degrees with a blue sky at first pitch. Nola, Harper and the bullpen put the cherry on top.

Up next

The Phillies will go for the three-game sweep Sunday before opening a seven-game road trip against the Cubs (four-game series) and Brewers (three-game series), the two-best teams in the NL Central.

Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff (2-2, 2.65) takes the ball Sunday (1:05 p.m./NBCSP) for the Phillies and will oppose Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland (2-5, 5.68).

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Strange postgame vibe after an inexcusably ugly Phillies loss

Strange postgame vibe after an inexcusably ugly Phillies loss

Where does one begin after a night like this?

With the offense that loaded the bases twice in the first three innings against Clayton Kershaw and stranded all six runners?

With the entire infield, which forgot how many outs there were in a fourth inning that set baseball back 70 years?

With the bullpen full of fringe or inexperienced major-league relievers that turned a six-run game into a 13-run game and stood no chance against the Dodgers' potent lineup?

With the $330 million outfielder who has been outplayed by more than a few visiting superstars at Citizens Bank Park this season?

This 16-2 loss, this was the kind of game that left the manager, the players, the fans and the reporters with more questions than answers.

"It's certainly not encouraging," Gabe Kapler said when asked about the embarrassing performance.

The manager didn't do much expanding. He didn't need to. The fact is the 2019 Dodgers are worlds better than the 2019 Phillies. L.A.'s rotation goes five, six, seven deep. Their lineup can beat you with power, with plate selection, with contact or with small ball like they used in the fourth inning, when they perfectly executed a safety squeeze and a double-steal of second and home.

Facing Kershaw, you're not going into the game with huge expectations. The Phillies were +160 underdogs, one of the biggest underdog lines you will see for a baseball team playing at home. But this was still pathetic. Inexcusable. Baffling. Concerning.

Why is it that opposing offenses can come into this park and make it look small? Why is it that opposing hitters can take such advantage of these juiced baseballs but the Phillies cannot? Cody Bellinger had as many home runs in a three-inning span Monday as Harper has in his last 17 home games.

The Phillies have been outscored 34-8 by the Dodgers, the team every other club in the National League knows it probably must get through to make it to the World Series. What is the Phillies' goal at this point? Is it to chase the wild-card? Is it to make it to a one-game playoff, cross their fingers and call it a job well done?

That wasn't the goal in the spring, when this team had 90-plus win aspirations and looked like it might feature five All-Stars.

This is why the game isn't played on paper, they say.

"I think after yesterday's game everybody's real positive and after a game like tonight you feel like you got kicked in the teeth," said Jay Bruce, who stranded six runners. "You get to start over each day and you get to start a game at 0-0 and have an opportunity to win. We have to play better, for sure. But as poorly as we've played, we're still right there in the wild-card hunt and you never know what's going to happen in the division so we just need to play like we can and play more consistent baseball and see what happens. ... A night like tonight is tough but we get to come back tomorrow and do it again."

There weren't many players in the clubhouse when it opened. Harper was sitting right there waiting, like he always does, no matter the game's outcome. He deserves credit for that, even if some of his answers rang hollow.

Zach Eflin, who has allowed 22 runs in his last 20 innings, actually took some positives from his start.

"I really felt like I probably gave up only two hard-ish hit balls that (fourth) inning," he said. "But at the end of the day, I felt like I got better today. I thought me and J.T. (Realmuto) did a good job of mixing pitches and really getting my curveball and changeup over. So although the box score doesn't really look too good, I feel like I took a lot of positives from today.

"We're all calm. There's no need to panic. We know how good we're going to be and it's just going to take that one time, that one game that everything clicks and then it's going to be a fun rest of the year."

They're fine. Everything is fine. The season isn't deteriorating two weeks before the trade deadline.

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Phillies embarrassed by Dodgers and have 2 of the ugliest innings you'll ever see

Phillies embarrassed by Dodgers and have 2 of the ugliest innings you'll ever see


What a completely humiliating loss for the Phillies.

It wasn't just that they were blown out, 16-2, by the visiting Dodgers. It was the way it unfolded and the way it sounded.

The Dodgers, with so many of their fans chanting and cheering throughout the night, scored six runs in the Phillies' ugliest inning of the season, the top of the fourth Monday. 

They went single, RBI double, groundout, RBI single, walk, RBI single, safety squeeze RBI single, sacrifice, RBI single, double steal of 2nd and home.

The Dodgers' catcher, Austin Barnes, laid down the successful squeeze. Cesar Hernandez was shifted all the way toward the second base bag and had no chance to scamper to first in time to receive the throw from Zach Eflin. A few batters later, it was again the catcher Barnes who stole home.

And that wasn't even the worst look of the inning. When Eflin struck out Alex Verdugo for the third out, the Phillies were so out of it that the entire infield appeared to not know it was the third out. Realmuto trickled the ball back to the pitcher, Eflin and his fielders stood around, and then after a few seconds, all realized in unison the inning was over and walked toward the dugout. 

The boos just rained down.

You can't blame Phillies fans at this point. They've been watching bad baseball for six weeks. An offense that can't consistently pick up the big hit, a rotation that can't get six innings deep nearly enough, a bullpen that can't protect leads.

It all bubbled to the surface Monday in an ugly loss, the kind of loss one would hope leads to a team meeting or a tough conversation or something that shows these coaches and players are taking the mounting losses personally.

And it got even worse

The Dodgers later added four homers, two by Cody Bellinger. Bellinger had as many home runs at CBP Monday as Bryce Harper has in his last 17 home games.

And still, it got worse. In the eighth inning, Yacksel Rios was ejected for hitting Justin Turner after Verdugo's homer, Edgar Garcia couldn't get a third out, the Dodgers scored five more runs and the Phillies were forced to insert Roman Quinn to pitch ... with the bases loaded. Quinn did get the inning-ending flyout before allowing two more runs in the ninth.

The Phillies are 48-46. Tomorrow night is Vince Velasquez against Walker Buehler.

Missed opportunities

The Phillies loaded the bases in the first and third innings against Clayton Kershaw and stranded all six runners. Jay Bruce was the main culprit, flying out to end the first and striking out on three pitches with one out and the sacks full in the third.

The Phillies reached base twice via error against Kershaw in the third inning. When you're facing a Hall of Fame pitcher, you have to cash in when you get the chance. The Phillies couldn't. You almost knew before the Dodgers even crossed the plate that this would be costly.

Segura dinged?

Jean Segura was limping in the field in the top of the ninth and again after his groundout in the bottom of the ninth. Manager Gabe Kapler said after the game that Segura was being examined but had no further update. We'll know more Tuesday.

Up next

The Phillies again miss NL All-Star starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, but that just means they get the rest of the Dodgers' strong rotation.

Tuesday night at 7:05 — Vince Velasquez (2-5, 4.63) vs. Walker Buehler (8-1, 3.46)

Wednesday night at 7:05 — Nick Pivetta (4-4, 5.81) vs. Kenta Maeda (7-6, 3.82)

Thursday afternoon at 12:35 — Aaron Nola (8-2, 3.63) vs. Ross Stripling (4-3, 3.65)

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