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Aaron Nola pegged as Opening Day starter



Aaron Nola will look to have an encore of his 2018 season, where he finished with the second-best ERA in the National League (Ian D’Andrea)

To the surprise of no one, Philadelphia Phillies manager Gabe Kapler has named Aaron Nola as the team’s Opening Day starter, per Jim Salisbury.

This will be Nola’s second consecutive Opening Day start for the Phillies, who will face the NL East-rival Atlanta Braves on March 28. The Braves have yet to announce their starting pitcher for the game.

Nola comes off a breakout season in which he went 17-6 with a 2.37 ERA, 224 strikeouts, and a 3.01 FIP. He also produced a bWAR of 10.5 and a SO/9 of 9.5 over 212.1 innings.

That outstanding stat line resulted in Nola finishing third in the National League Cy Young Award voting. The 25-year-old right-hander is again expected to contend for the honors, with BetOnline listing him at +900 odds to become the 2019 NL Cy Young winner.

One place where Nola might be able to increase his numbers over 2018 could come in the Wins category. Last year, Nola had a run support average of 4.1 per game, tied for 45th in all of baseball . With the additions of Andrew McCutchen, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura, Nola has a solid chance to become the first Phillies pitcher since the late Roy Halladay back in 2010 to win 20 games.

Everyone in Phillies Nation is hoping that this only the beginning of a long, successful career as the Phillies staff ace. Nola has a long way to go before he catches up with the franchise all-time Opening Day leaders. Steve Carlton has the most such starts for the Phillies with 14. Robin Roberts is a close second with 12, while Chris Short is at third with six Opening Day outings.

Nola will be with the Phillies for at least four more years (five if the club exercises their team option) thanks to his recently signed contract extension. If he continues to perform to this level there is no reason that he won’t rise up those Opening Day starter ranks.

This 2019 season is shaping up to be an important one for the Phillies, and the fan base has high hopes. With the additions of Harper and the others, the team is expected to make a run for the playoffs. Starting the season off strong is crucial, and Opening Day against the defending division champions is a great place to set the tone. The Phillies appear to have just the right ace for the job in Nola.

 

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