Aaron and Austin Nola not taking this rare opportunity for granted


When the Nola brothers caught up early this week prior to the start of the NLCS in San Diego, they avoided talking baseball other than to acknowledge the rarity of the opportunity ahead of them.

"Pretty much the only thing we talked about that involved the series was this might be one of the last times, because you never know," said Aaron Nola, who hasn't allowed an earned run in 12⅔ innings in his first two postseason starts.

"You never know if this will ever happen, us playing against each other at this stage of the NLCS. We're blessed to be in this position against each other and on the same field. It's pretty cool."

Aaron Nola will start Game 2 for the Phillies Wednesday afternoon in San Diego. Austin Nola has become the Padres' primary catcher, hitting .381 with two doubles and four RBI in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

The Nolas are the first pair of brothers whose teams have faced each other in a postseason series since Roberto and Sandy Alomar in the 1997 ALCS. It's only the fourth instance in the last 98 years. But this is the first time one of the brothers is a pitcher who will actually face his brother.

Austin is four years older than Aaron and has taken a much different path to this point. The elder Nola was a fifth-round pick in 2012 who didn't make it to the majors until 2019, with his second organization. He had more than 3,000 minor-league plate appearances at that point. Aaron was a first-round pick of the Phillies in 2014 and debuted in the majors a year later.

Austin was a shortstop coming up and didn't catch in the minors until 2017. 

"He has such a good story of how he's got to this position that he's in right now," Aaron said Tuesday afternoon. "He played shortstop his whole life and moved around the infield and ended up -- years ago ended up being a catcher, had never caught before, and got called up with the Mariners, played first base, never played first base before.

"He got traded over here to San Diego and caught in 2020. Now he's catching every day pretty much.

"The resiliency he's had and him sticking with what he does best and what he knows best and being in the minor Leagues for seven, seven and a half years says a lot about him, says a lot about his journey."

Aaron is as mild-mannered as they come. Those who have watched his entire career unfold in Philadelphia can count on one hand how many times he's reacted emotionally to anything on the mound, good or bad. You might only need a few fingers.

It was a competitive household growing up and Austin, as the older brother, wanted to make sure Aaron brought intensity and an edge to his own athletic pursuits.

"Never let me win at anything," Aaron said. "I didn't win in many things, no matter what we did or what we played, what sport it was. It took me a while, took me a while. So I think that gave me that competitive edge.

"Growing up, I always wanted to be as good as him, and I went to almost every one of his baseball games, basketball games, football games. When he went to high school, I also watched almost every one of those, and then in college at LSU before we played with each other, I went to almost every one of his home games, too.

"I got to see how he went about his business and played the game and learned a lot from him."

The Nola brothers have faced each other six times. Austin is 1 for 5 with a single, a walk and two strikeouts. 

It's a fun storyline, one of many subplots to this NLCS, but zoning in won't be hard for either brother.

"We've done this a few times now, and it's pretty cool," Aaron said. "Obviously not as nerve-racking as the first time we faced off against each other. But at the end of the day, I'm trying to get him out, and at the end of the day, he's trying to get on versus me.

"Brother versus brother, it's still the game."

The Nola family has also developed a routine for when the Phillies and Padres meet.

"I know my dad wears two jerseys usually, and I think he wears the Phillies jersey over the Padres jersey when I pitch, and then vice versa when I don't pitch," Aaron said.

"Austin plays pretty much every day, so I think he wears the Padres jersey probably a little bit more."

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