Phillies Game Story

Nola bounces back, Phillies leave meat on the bone but do enough to win

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WASHINGTON — Aaron Nola rebounded from a poor first start and the Phillies had a better offensive night Friday in a 4-0 win over the Nationals, even if they left a slew of runs on the board.

Nola allowed six earned on 11 hits in his first start against the Braves, who probably have the best and deepest lineup on planet Earth. The Nationals are a much different team, not devoid of talent — CJ Abrams is an emerging star, Lane Thomas, Jesse Winker and Joey Meneses are useful bats — but not a team that will threaten with power most nights.

Friday night was frigid, 42 degrees with wind by game's end, difficult conditions for pitchers to grip the ball, but it went much smoother for Nola. He pitched 5⅔ scoreless innings and allowed only two hits, both in the second inning. There still wasn't a ton of swing-and-miss but some of that is owed to the Nationals being a high-contact team. Nola's swinging strike rate through two starts is 9%, below his career average (11.6%) and the league average (11.4%). It's two starts.

He walked four but had enough to keep the Nationals off the board and hand the game over to the bullpen, which had a lockdown night. Matt Strahm retired all four hitters he faced on 19 pitches, 15 strikes. Strahm has retired nine in a row over his last three appearances. Jose Alvarado has had three hitless, scoreless innings. Jeff Hoffman, Gregory Soto and Yunior Marte have been unscored upon.

The Phillies scored three runs in the second inning Friday with a string of six consecutive productive plate appearances vs. Patrick Corbin. It looked on paper like a get-right night for a scuffling offense against the worst starting pitcher in baseball over the last four years, and it seemed they might knock him out early.

They won the game, but the Phillies stranded a two-out double in the first, runners on the corners in the third, a leadoff baserunner in the fourth, a two-out single in the fifth, a leadoff single in the sixth, runners on the corners with nobody out in the seventh, the bases loaded with one out in the eighth and runners on second and third with two outs in the ninth.

It also means they had plenty of good plate appearances, walking nine times with nine hits. They're still awaiting that first team-wide offensive explosion. Harper did the bulk of the work in their second win with a three-homer game. There hasn't been a night of multiple crooked numbers or damage up and down the lineup.

The Phillies have also spent the first week playing in low temperatures with wind and precipitation. Not exactly ideal hitting conditions.

"That can be an excuse," Thomson said prior to the game, "and I don't like making excuses."

Alec Bohm singled to begin the decisive three-run second inning and the Phillies loaded the bases with no outs on walks by Bryson Stott and Nick Castellanos. Brandon Marsh hit a deep sacrifice fly, then Johan Rojas advanced both runners with a groundout. He dove in headfirst to first base which probably isn't the greatest idea as his hands narrowly avoided Meneses' spikes.

The next batter, Kyle Schwarber, had the key hit, a two-out, two-run single.

The Phillies had traffic on the basepaths every inning against Corbin but didn't get to him again until the seventh when Schwarber walked, Trea Turner doubled and Bryce Harper hit an RBI single to chase him.

Harper had a three-hit night with two doubles. Schwarber, Bohm, J.T. Realmuto and Bryson Stott reached at least twice apiece.

The starting rotation has been on point so far. Aside from Nola's stumble against the Braves, it has a 1.65 ERA. Ranger Suarez and Cristopher Sanchez start the final two games of the series as the 3-4 Phillies look to set a tone against a Nationals team they should clobber but went only 7-6 against last season.

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