Friday, December 3 2021

Aaron Nola taken deep with 2 outs in the 9th in crushing Phillies loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Aaron Nola toyed with the Padres for three hours, finding himself one out away from a complete game that would have given the Phillies their second straight win in San Diego after three brutal losses in Arizona.

But his 117th pitch of the night — which matched a career-high — was taken deep by Jake Cronenworth for a two-out, two-run, game-tying home run in the ninth.

The Padres won it in the 10th inning, 4-3, on a wild pitch by Connor Brogdon.

“Heartbreaking,” Nola said. “I didn’t get the ball in enough.”

This was a costly loss for the 62-61 Phillies. The Braves won their eighth in a row, pushing the Phils to five games out in the division. The Phillies also trail by five games in the wild-card race to the Reds and Padres. They are 3-8 since their eight-game winning streak, ranking last in the majors in batting average and slugging percentage over that span and last in the National League in runs scored.

Nola was still in the game with such a high pitch count because he had pitched masterfully for eight innings and because the Phillies used all three of Ian Kennedy, Archie Bradley and Hector Neris for more than an inning Friday. Nola opened the ninth with a strikeout, his 11th of the night, before walking Fernando Tatis Jr. and getting a quick lineout from Manny Machado. Cronenworth, who is making a name for himself as a rock-solid, clutch two-way player, followed with a homer to center on a 3-1 count.

“I felt fine,” Nola said. “My misses weren’t super bad, especially to Cronenworth (before the homer).”

Kennedy was loose in the bullpen but Nola, who had just one high-stress inning all night, had also earned the right to finish the job. No matter who allowed the tying run, manager Joe Girardi’s decision would have been second-guessed.

“We talked to him and he felt great,” Girardi said. “As well as he was throwing and as taxed as our bullpen was last night, I just thought he gave us the best chance right there.”

Nola’s night began with six perfect innings. His velocity was up, his two-seam fastball danced and froze Padres left-handed hitters on the inside corner, and he commanded both his curveball and changeup. He has not had all four pitches working on the same night many times this season but he did Saturday. His four-seam fastball was up from 92.5 mph to 94.1, and his two-seam fastball was also up one mph, though the movement and command stood out most. Until pitch 117, a center-cut, 92 mph heater.

“He was so good,” Girardi said. “He made maybe one mistake all night. It’s really unfortunate because he gave us everything he had. He did it on the mound, he did it offensively tonight for us. It’s really frustrating but you’ve got to put this behind you and find a way to come out and win tomorrow.”

Nola did not allow a baserunner until Brad Miller committed an error at first base to open the seventh inning. The Phillies led by one at the time. The play was not easy but a major-league first baseman has to make it. Miller had to motion a few steps toward his right and the ball nicked off his glove into shallow right field. Miller has hit for power this season but has played poorly in the field and he’s been pressed into duty more than usual with Rhys Hoskins still sidelined by a groin injury.

The Padres scored later in the seventh on Machado’s RBI single but the run was unearned and Nola stranded him at second. Nola led off the bottom of the seventh with an opposite-field double and came around to score when Didi Gregorius was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Two different Padres relievers plunked a Phillie with the sacks full in the inning as they took a 3-1 lead. 

Their first run came on a leadoff homer by Odubel Herrera, who exited in the ninth inning with an apparent injury.

The Phillies went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and had four hits: Herrera’s homer, Nola’s double and two from Bryce Harper. Andrew McCutchen had an excruciating night at the plate, going 0 for 5 with five strikeouts and stranding seven runners. 

The Phillies try for a series win Sunday afternoon at 3:40. Kyle Gibson, who has made a quality start in all three starts as a Phillie, is on the mound.

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