By Dylan MacKinnon
It feels like Deja Vu. Aaron Nola pitching in what feels like an important game. he has a chance to win a series for the Phillies. And then he pitches poorly, and they lose. It feels familiar, because it is familiar. It has been happening all year.
Yesterday with a chance to win a series vs the Reds, Aaron Nola again failed to step up. He went only 4.1 innings, and gave up 4 earned runs. He left the game with one out in the 4th and the bases loaded. Bailey Falter walked one of those runners in, but then got out of the inning, sparing Nola of an even worse line.
Coming into the season the question was who is the ace, Nola or Zack Wheeler. But even the people who picked Wheeler did not see Nola being this bad this year. In 24 starts he has an ERA of 4.48 and a record of 7 -7. He has flat out been bad this year. Incapable of stringing together multiple good starts in a row.
He has only 9 quality starts this year. 9. Out of 24 chances. 3/8ths of his starts have been quality. And that is a low threshold to cross. The minimum requirements for a QS is 6 innings and no more than 3 earned runs. If you did that every start your ERA would be 4.5. Yet he can’t even manage that. He has had consecutive quality starts only twice, and never strung 3 together.
Yesterday was the 9th time he pitched in a game where he had a chance to win a series for the Phillies. In those games his ERA is 3.93. The Phillies are 4-5 in those games. His personal record in those games is 3-4. He had three very good games in those types of starts. April 18th vs the Cardinals which was his complete game shutout. June 13th vs the Yankees, where he pitched into the 8th and gave up 0 runs. And then more recent July 25th, where he got all but on out in the game, giving up only 1 earned run. Across the other 6 starts his ERA is 8.17. Six out of Nola’s nine chances to win a series for his team, he came up very small.
Yesterday was just another example. The Phillies had a chance to build some momentum again, and he could even get out of the 5th inning. And yesterday’s game was a continuation of another troubling trend. Nola has had 4 games this season where he allowed 0 earned runs. In the 4 starts after those games, his ERA is 10.31. It actually improved a little bit yesterday, that’s how bad it was. Pitchers are supposed to build on good outings. His stuff looked so good vs the Dodgers, before having it ruined by a rain delay. People were hoping he’d carry that it the Red’s game. But for the 4th time this season, he took the momentum he built in the previous outing, and chucked it out a window.
The Phillies chances, little as they are, of dong anything this year rely on Nola. And he has continually come up small when called upon. Why has he been so bad this year? Well he hasn’t commanded his fast ball as well as usual. His curveball has not had the same break. He has been terrible with 2 outs. And his road ERA is in the 6’s. Nola doesn’t have the powerful stuff to blow by people like Wheeler does. He relies on break, and accuracy. If he cant locate his pitches, things are going to get ugly. Now why his accuracy is off this year? That is a question for him and his pitching coaches. But the simple fat his, he has not been good enough. And if the Phillies miss the playoffs, a lot of the blame will be on his shoulders.
And I cant speak for anyone else, but I am done hoping he will step up thus year. We have seen him fail to either step up, or build on momentum, too many times this year.