Nola beats himself up a little after Padres beat him up to tie NLCS


SAN DIEGO -- The whole brotherly love thing with Mom and Dad sitting in the stands with their hearts being ripped in two directions was a great story for the keyboards and the cameras, but the end, the denouement as they called it back in your college lit class, was not all that enjoyable for Aaron Nola.

The Phillies are headed home knotted at a game apiece with the San Diego Padres in the National League Championship Series. The Phils had a golden chance to go home up two games, but Nola, who had pitched so brilliantly in his previous three starts -- all of which had huge stakes -- couldn't keep the roll going in an 8-5 loss in Game 2 Wednesday. He failed to hold an early 4-0 lead. The Padres pulled away with five runs in the fifth inning, the first of which came home when Nola served up an RBI single to his 32-year-old brother, Austin, the Padres' catcher.

The day before the game, Aaron Nola, 29, was all smiles when he was asked about facing his big brother.

Twenty minutes after the game ended Wednesday, he was clearly tired of it all.

"I want to beat him," he said. "I want to go to the next round and let him go home."

All of this is still quite possible. The Phillies play the next three games of the best-of-seven series at home, where the fans are finally coming out with loud voices that were in storage while they suffered through the home team's 10-year playoff drought. Citizens Bank Park was a difference-maker last week when the Phils came home tied at a game apiece with Atlanta in the NL Division Series. It can be again Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

"Absolutely," Jean Segura said. "The last two games you saw it. To be able to go home, 1-1, that's what we want. Yeah, 2-0 would be better but sometimes you have to give credit to the opponent. They did a good job. They attacked Nola after we scored four and kept attacking and attacking. That's part of baseball."

In his previous three starts -- the postseason clincher, the first-round playoff clincher, and Game 3 of the NLDS -- Nola gave up just one unearned run in 19⅓ innings. He did it the way he does it when he's going good. With command of everything. With two-way movement down in the zone. With an occasional hard one above the barrel.

Nola couldn't get the Padres off his fastball in this one. After getting the 4-0 lead in the top of the second, he allowed a pair of home runs, on fastballs, to Brandon Drury and Josh Bell in the bottom of the inning. In the fifth, his brother drove in a run on a high, 0-2 fastball and Juan Soto doubled home the tying run on an 0-2 fastball on the inner part of the plate. Lefty Brad Hand eventually came on and poured gasoline on the fire instead of controlling it.

Big innings and 0-2 hits have hurt Nola in the past. They did again in this one. 

"I felt like I had decent control," Nola said. "They just put some good swings on it. I've got to go back and look and see if they were sitting on those fastballs late in the count. They put some good swings on 'em."

The numbers would suggest the Padres were hunting Nola's fastball, guessing, sitting on it, whatever you might call it. Their average exit velocity off the bat was 97.9 mph, the highest of Nola's career.

He and the Phillies' pitching braintrust will have to make some adjustments if there's a Game 6 back in San Diego on Monday. Nola lines up to pitch that game, maybe for the Phillies' entry into the World Series.

"It's frustrating," Nola said. "I want to go out and put up zeroes and go as deeply as I can for these guys. Good thing it's a seven-game series so we're headed back home.

"Obviously where we are right now in the season, we're playing against the best teams. It stinks that these guys gave me a 4-0 lead and I gave it right back up. But I'm going to flush this one and focus on my next one."

The Phillies will use Ranger Suarez in Game 3 Friday, the bullpen, like they did in the Division Series clincher against Atlanta, in Game 4 Saturday, and Zack Wheeler in Game 5 on Sunday. If it gets back to San Diego, Kyle Schwarber has faith in Nola to rebound.

"He's been fantastic," Schwarber said. "I don't think this little bump is going to slow him down. I bet he'll be champing at the bit to get back out there when his name is called. 

"We weren't able to pick him up today. He's picked us up so much this past month."

Indeed, the Phillies scored only one more run in the game after jabbing their way to a 4-0 lead on Blake Snell in the second inning. Phillies hitters struck out 13 times. They wasted a leadoff double by Bryce Harper in the sixth.

"It happens," Harper said of the missed chances. "We have to flush this one. It's huge going home 1-and-1. We took the home-field advantage away from them (in Game 1). A missed opportunity today but we're excited for Friday night and playing in front of our fans."

The Phillies have been here before.

"That's exactly what you tell them," manager Rob Thomson said. "We went into Atlanta, won the first one, lost the second one in a disappointing game. We had a day off and came back home in front of 46,000 raucous people and played really well."

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