PHILADELPHIA — Channeling Nick Foles in 2018, Carson Wentz and Joel Embiid in 2019, and Markelle Fultz in 2020, Aaron Nola has become the next championship hero in Philadelphia.
The right-hander had arguably the finest start of his seven-year career in Game 2 of the World Series, pitching all nine to dispose the Houston Astros, 6-0. He surrendered just three hits, all singles, while striking out 12 and walking none. With Foles, Wentz, Embiid and Fultz all in attendance, no less, Nola ascended to a new level.
“I just felt good during warmups,” said Nola, who threw 109 pitches, mixing his superb two-seam fastball with a curveball that puzzled Astro hitters all evening. “From there I barely veered from my plan with Jorge (Alfaro). He set the signals, and I trusted them all night.”
Nola let up two of those three hits in his first three innings of work, but the Astros never really threatened. Tied at zeroes heading into the fourth, the Phillies finally got on the board against Houston starter Zack Greinke, the 38-year-old who came to Houston in the offseason with the purpose of finally getting a championship ring. Facing the top of the Phils’ order for the second time, Greinke ran into trouble against Scott Kingery, who doubled down the left-field line. Two batters later, Mike Trout singled him home. After his RBI hit, Trout pointed to the first base line to Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz, who wasn’t in position to distract him or anyone else this time around.
“I told Mike I was keeping out of trouble tonight,” said Wentz, who on Sunday leads his 6-0 Eagles against the 0-6 Cowboys. “But I’m looking forward to our weekly football toss tomorrow morning before they leave for Houston.”
While not feeling 100 percent, Manny Machado started but proved ineffective, going o-4 with a walk. But Machado’s struggles didn’t derail the Phils, as Rhys Hoskins followed up with a two-run home run, the first of the series for the Phillies.
With a 3-0 lead, Nola comfortably sat down the Astros through the middle innings. No hitter had more trouble against Nola than centerfielder Gilberto Celestino. The 22-year-old rookie couldn’t lay off the curve, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
The Phils struck again in the seventh, putting up another three runs thanks to back-to-back doubles by Odubel Herrera and Adam Haseley, and a two-run home run by Jorge Alfaro. It was Alfaro’s 20th home run since the all-star break, sending fans into the traditional sing-along of “Hip Hop Jorge.” Only fitting since Treach of Naughty By Nature – who goes by the name Anthony Criss – sang the “Star-Spangled Banner” before the game.
“I honestly didn’t know that guy could sing like that,” said Alfaro. “What do they say … down with OPP?”
“Yeah,” said a laughing Embiid, who was visiting the clubhouse after the game. “You know lickface.”
The series now shifts to Houston, where the Phils will attempt to take a 2-1 lead on the back of starter Carlos Carrasco.