Aaron Nola has proven at different points in his career that when he is at the top of his game, he can be one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball. And in his last three outings, Nola has certainly produced at that same level.
The right-hander excelled in 2018 on his way to a third-place finish in National League Cy Young voting. Replicating similar dominance, Nola’s start on Saturday against the New York Mets capped an incredible three-start stretch where he pitched 21 innings, struck out 30 batters and allowed just two runs.
This stretch from Nola has been one of most impressive in baseball so far in 2020, and one of the best in recent Philadelphia Phillies history:
“The last few games have felt good,” Nola said Saturday night to the collective media, including Phillies Nation‘s Tim Kelly. “… I think getting ahead of guys and finishing them off has kind of been the key.”
Nola has been able to do those things since his return to the mound against the New York Yankees on Aug. 5. Pitching the second end of a doubleheader, Nola struck out 12 over six innings, allowing three hits and just one run on a Luke Voit home run. Although the Phillies ended up losing this game, Nola was able to bounce back from a disappointing start on opening day.
His next start against the Atlanta Braves on Aug. 10 was even better. This time Nola again gave up just one run, surrendering a home run to Travis d’Arnaud. He gave up only two hits over eight strong innings, and struck out 10 batters.
Then on Saturday against the Mets, Nola pitched seven shutout innings, giving up only three hits and striking out eight. His performance helped lead the Phillies to their first series win of the season.
New York manager Luis Rojas spoke highly of the movement that Nola got on his pitches in the game, and cited that as a big reason for his hitters’ struggles against the pitcher.
“From the guys’ feedback coming back,” Rojas said, “he had a lot of pitches that were strikes to balls and balls to strikes. As you saw, it almost looked like everything we took was called and everything we swung at was out of the zone. And that’s the kind of pitcher he is.”
Mets hitter Dominic Smith agreed with Rojas’ sentiment. He also summed up what makes Nola so hard to hit, and has allowed him to be so effective over the last few games.
“He’s really tough because he doesn’t give in,” Smith said about Nola. “He makes quality pitches, whether he’s behind in the count or ahead in the count. … He got a lot of swings out of the zone. That’s just because he can make his stuff look like strikes.”
After a 2019 season that was relatively disappointing compared to his performance the year before, it was a bit unclear which version of the Phillies ace was to be expected this season. If the last three games are any indication, Nola just might be back to the same form he found back in 2018.
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