Aaron Nola picked up his first win of 2020 when the Phillies beat the Braves 13-8 on Monday night. Nola was essentially flawless over eight innings of one-run ball, allowing just two hits and one walk. The Phillies ace also struck out 10 in a game that saw multiple runs scored upon his exit prior to the ninth.
Bullpen woes that plagued the team in 2019 have only continued in the abbreviated season, with the pen’s total ERA remarkably over 10. Once Nola was pulled, Nick Pivetta surrendered six hits and six runs while recording just one out. He was then yanked in favor of Trevor Kelley, who gave up a home run to Austin Riley. The team responded by demoting Pivetta to Allentown, which is something that was tried last year as well. Trevor Kelley was also designated for assignment following a rough start to the season, as was Nick Williams. The DFA of Williams means that no players from the Hamels deal remain with the team, though Jorge Alfaro was sent to Miami in the trade for Realmuto.
While the bullpen situation and lack of a rotation back-end continue to sink the Phillies, the 1-2 of Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler has been solid in the early going. Wheeler has allowed six runs over 18.2 innings of work, sporting a solid FIP of 3.67. As for Nola, his last two outings have been in 2018 form. The LSU product has allowed just two earned runs, five hits and just one walk over his last two starts. He logged 14 innings between those two games, striking out 22 in the process. Aside from Opening Day, Nola has been lights out in the (not so) young season. His FIP (2.36) is significantly lower than his ERA (2.79), which indicates that his performance will continue.
Of course, poor run support cost Nola a win against the Yankees on August fifth. The right-hander tossed six innings of one-run ball, but the bats were silent on the night. The Phillies ultimately scored just one run in a 3-1 loss. It all goes to show that “wins” have become a meaningless stat that pitchers should not be judged on.
Six innings of work, one run allowed and 11 strikeouts is Cy Young caliber output regardless of who ends up with the official win/loss. Having an anchor is absolutley crucial in the MLB and if Nola can be that, which he generally has been since 2018, the Phillies will at least have one of the most crucial building blocks necessary for a championship team. The middle of the roster can be addressed, but home grown staff aces are coveted for a reason.
Nola is next slated to face off against the Mets on Saturday, though everything seems fluid these days.