Aaron Nola dominates Yankees, announces he's ready for opening day


Aaron Nola served notice Monday night.

He's ready for his opening day start.

Nola was brilliant in taking down a primetime lineup of New York Yankees in his penultimate start of the Grapefruit League season in Tampa. The 27-year-old right-hander pitched six scoreless innings while giving up just one hit (a single) and no walks. He hit a batter and struck out nine.

"That was as good as I've seen him," manager Joe Girardi said. "He was dominant. He had command on both sides of the plate with his fastball. His breaking ball was outstanding. He threw good changeups. He was in total control the whole night."

Nola threw 84 pitches, 56 of which were strikes.

The Phillies won the game, 4-0. For the night, their pitchers allowed just two hits, walked none and struck out 12. Didi Gregorius hit a two-run homer.

Nola had been hit hard by Toronto in his previous start and entered the game with an ERA of 10.38 in official Grapefruit League action. Spring training results don't carry the same weight for an established pitcher like Nola that they do for a youngster trying to make the club. Nonetheless, nobody likes to see an ERA over 10 next to his name.

"I haven't been too good this spring," Nola said.

He had a feeling he'd be good in this one.

"I felt good the whole game," he said. "Throwing in the outfield before my bullpen, I felt good with the fastball and it carried over to the game."

Nola's fastball sat at 93 mph and his command on the outside corner to right-handed hitters was exceptional.

"My fastball command to (that side) was the best it's been in a while," Nola said. "I feel good, healthy. My arm feels solid. I have to keep building on this."

Earlier in the day, Girardi officially informed Nola that he would make his fourth straight opening day start on April 1. It had been clear for weeks that Nola would get that assignment but hearing it from the manager is always a thrill.

"It's a cool honor, man," he said. "It's cool to be named that again and start the year off in the first game. I'm honored. But there's a lot of starts after that. I hope to give us a chance to win on opening day and I'm looking forward to my next outing to stay on top of things."

Nola will scale back his pitch count in his final spring tune-up Saturday.

Then it's game-on five days later against Atlanta.

"The Braves again," he said. "I feel like it's always against the Braves."

Two of Nola's previous three opening day starts were against the Braves. There was the debacle of 2018, when first-year manager Gabe Kapler removed him at 68 pitches with a 5-0 lead in the sixth inning. The Phils ended up losing that game, 8-5. A year later, Nola got another shot at the Braves on opening day. He pitched six innings of one-run ball and got the win.

Last year, Nola lost the opener to Miami.

Nola has made 20 starts in his career against Atlanta. He is 11-6 with a 3.05 ERA.

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