The first inning of Tuesday night’s 5-4 win over Colorado could have been considered threatening when D.J. LeMahieu, the Rockies leadoff hitter, reached third base with just one out.
If there was a chance for a game to fall apart, this was it. After all, LeMahieu was only on base because of a throwing error. And now he was 90 feet away with the heart of the lineup coming to the plate.
But the Phillies had Aaron Nola on the mound. What was there to worry about?
Nola cooly induced consecutive groundouts to keep LeMahieu at third and stunt the rally before it truly began. Another spectacular night was ready to begin. He struck out 10 batters without issuing a walk and allowed four hits in 62/3 innings at Citizens Bank Park. His lone run scored after he was lifted in the seventh inning. Nola never seems fazed when trouble arrives. And Tuesday was no different.
LeMahieu was one of three runners that Nola left stranded. The Rockies went hitless against Nola in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position. His ERA lowered to 2.27, the fourth-best mark in the National League. He is averaging nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings over his last five starts. Tuesday was the eighth time Nola reached the seventh inning in his last 12 outings.
His success is easy to define, but it is a bit more challenging to quantify just how cool he stays under pressure. His ability to strand runners is a good measure. Nola has left 80 percent of his runners on base this season. It is the NL’s ninth-best mark. Rockies catcher Tom Murphy doubled to start the third and moved to third base before meeting the same fate of LeMahieu. Nola caught Charlie Blackmon looking at a fastball to end the inning.
Scott Kingery hit a three-run homer in the first for his first homer since April 10. He drove in another run in the third with a sacrifice fly. The Phillies have been patient with Kingery as the rookie works his way out of a slump. Manager Gabe Kapler has said a few times in the last week that he was seeing good at-bats. Tuesday brought results.
Odubel Herrera went 0 for 4 and scored a run in the eighth after reaching on a wild pitch following his strike out. Herrera is hitless in his last four games and has just 11 hits in his last 76 at-bats. Herrera’s run put the Phillies ahead by four with just three outs to go. A win seemed safe. But nothing seemed guaranteed after Nola exited. Luis Garcia loaded the bases with no outs and allowed a run before he was replaced by Seranthony Dominguez. The rookie allowed a run-scoring single before retiring the final three batters. He punctuated the win with a wicked slider to strike out Nolan Arenado.
Nola would meet trouble again in the seventh when Trevor Story and Gerardo Parra singled with one out to put runners on first and third. Nola had already exhausted 103 pitches. Perhaps this was how his night would end. But Kapler stuck with his ace. Nola used five pitches to strike out Ian Desmond, freezing him with a low fastball. What trouble?
Kapler came out to lift Nola and the crowd booed, but the move was justifiable. Nola had thrown 110 pitches. Perhaps they just believed that Nola, not Edubray Ramos, was better suited to for the tense situation.