Concerns over Nola grow, Phillies overcome shaky defense to beat Cardinals

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Concerns over Nola grow, Phillies overcome shaky defense to beat Cardinals originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

ST. LOUIS — It was far from their prettiest game of the season and it only raised more questions about Aaron Nola, but the Phillies began their final multi-city road trip of 2023 on a positive note, responding to a 2-5 homestand by holding on to beat the Cardinals Friday night at Busch Stadium.

St. Louis had the bases loaded with the winning run in scoring position with two outs in the ninth inning against Jose Alvarado but Lars Nootbaar struck out looking to end a 5-4 Phillies win.

Much earlier in the night, the Phils jumped on St. Louis lefty Zack Thompson with four runs in the first inning. Trea Turner began the rally — surprise, surprise — with a single to center. He scored on a fielder’s choice from Bryce Harper, and two batters later, Nick Castellanos deposited a first-pitch cutter over the heart of the plate into the Phillies’ bullpen for a three-run homer.

Castellanos is up to 24 home runs — 11 more than last year — and 93 RBI on the season. His career-high is 101.

The Phillies had lost nine of their last 10 one-run games. They improved to 80-67 with 15 games left. They’ll head into Saturday with a 2½-game lead on the Cubs — three up in the loss column plus the tiebreaker — for the top National League wild-card spot.

Harper was ejected by home plate umpire Alex Tosi after ending the top of the third inning with a swinging strikeout. The penultimate pitch he saw was a fastball high and out of the zone that was called a strike. He flung his bat toward the Phillies’ dugout in frustration and appeared to get his money’s worth after being tossed.

You never want to lose your best hitter and cleanup man so early, and the Cardinals quickly cut the Phils’ lead in half the next half-inning with three consecutive one-out singles off Nola. St. Louis had the tying run on base when Bryson Stott and Turner executed a nifty 4-6-3 double play with Stott fielding a ball up the middle and flipping to Turner with his momentum going away from the play. It was a pivotal point in the game for Nola, who has been doomed time and again this season by one problematic inning.

Aside from that GIDP, the Phillies’ defense was poor with six misplays in the first six innings. Turner made an errant throw to begin the bottom of the first and was unable to catch a line drive right at him in the sixth. Edmundo Sosa‘s throw to second base on a fielder’s choice attempt was late in the third inning, then in the fourth, he double-clutched a ball that resulted in Jordan Walker reaching base. Nola made a wide throw to first on a swinging bunt by Tommy Edman and Cristian Pache missed a cutoff man on the next play, allowing Edman to advance.

Phillies manager Rob Thomson pulled Nola after 4⅔ innings. The right-hander was at 97 pitches with two men aboard and two outs. It was Nola’s third straight start under five innings. The only other time in his MLB career he’s had three straight sub-five-inning starts was in June 2016, shortly before he was shut down for the season with an elbow injury.

Matt Strahm made Thomson’s decision stand up by striking out Richie Palacios to end the fifth-inning threat. The Phillies used five different relievers — Strahm, Seranthony Dominguez, Craig Kimbrel and Jose Alvarado — to preserve the lead. Kimbrel walked the bases loaded in the eighth but struck out Alec Burleson to end the inning. Alvarado had the tying and winning runs on base with two outs in the ninth but _______

Nola struck out just one of the 23 batters he faced, a career low. Only five of his 97 pitches resulted in a swinging strike. In 30 starts, Nola is 12-9 with a 4.62 ERA. He figures to take the mound two or three more times in the regular season. As it stands, he’d be in line to start Game 162, but the Phillies could also save him if they’ve clinched the top wild-card spot by then.

Johan Rojas started in center field and picked up two more hits out of the nine-hole. The rookie is batting .288 with a .336 on-base percentage in 123 plate appearances. It’s a small sample size, but if he can reach base at that clip with his elite defense, he’s an everyday player.

The Phillies look to win the series Saturday night when Ranger Suarez opposes contact-based right-hander Miles Mikolas. The Phillies got to Mikolas for five runs in six innings at home on August 25. Suarez struck out a career-high 10 Marlins on Sunday.

EMEA Tribune is not involved in this news article, it is taken from our partners and or from the News Agencies. Copyright and Credit go to the News Agencies, email [email protected]

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