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Alex Cora: Aaron Nola is best pitcher Red Sox have faced last 2 years

Aaron Nola pitched well against the Red Sox Saturday. (Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Phillies wasted a strong effort from RHP Aaron Nola in a 2-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox Saturday, but the poise that the 26-year-old pitched with wasn’t lost on Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

After cruising through the first six innings of his start Saturday evening, Nola ran into trouble in the seventh inning. Though he did allow one run in the inning – raising his ERA to 8.10 in the seventh inning in 2019 – he ultimately induced a fielder’s choice off the bat off Gorkys Hernandez and struck out pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to strand the bases loaded and keep the Phillies in the game.

Nola’s ability to navigate through what could have been a crippling inning impressed Cora.

“We’ve seen him the last two years,” Cora told the collective media, including Rob Maaddi of The Associated Press. “With all due respect to the pitchers that we’ve faced, he’s been the best one. I love the way he competes, love his stuff, he doesn’t panic. He’s pitched twice over there at home [at Fenway Park] and twice here, but with the offense that we have, he still dominates us. They really have a good one. He’s a special one. It would have been cool to face him in October, but I guess we’ll face him next year.”

Saturday was actually the first time that Nola has pitched against the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park, but between last night and two starts at Fenway Park, Nola has a 1.64 ERA in three starts against Boston. Mind you, even with Mookie Betts out of the lineup Saturday, the Red Sox lineup still included Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez. A year ago, the Red Sox scored a league-leading 876 runs in the regular season, won a franchise-record 108 regular-season games and ultimately their ninth World Series title. Even in 2019, when they almost certainly are going to miss the playoffs, the Red Sox have a +80 run differential, which isn’t because they’ve gotten dominant pitching.

Still, it’s worth considering some of the pitchers that the Red Sox have faced over the past two seasons. In the American League East alone, the Red Sox have seen Luis Severino, Blake Snell and Charlie Morton. In the 2018 ALCS against the Houston Astros, the Red Sox saw the aforementioned Morton, future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander, former American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel and 2019 American League Cy Young Award front-runner Gerrit Cole. In their five-game World Series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Red Sox faced future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw, National League Cy Young contender Hyun-jin Ryu and 2019 National League All-Star Walker Buehler.

Is Nola the best pitcher that the Red Sox have seen over the past two seasons? Probably not. But for him to have been so dominant in his three starts against the Red Sox that they think he might be is telling.


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