ATLANTA — Aaron Nola delivered eight innings of gutsy brilliance in leading the Phillies to a 2-0 win over the Atlanta Braves in the first game of an important three-game series at steamy SunTrust Park on Tuesday night.
The win inched the Phillies’ record in the right direction. They are 45-40, in second place in the NL East, 4½ games behind the Braves.
The Braves entered the game on the heels of a sizzling June in which they went 20-8 and hit 56 homers and 64 doubles en route to a .872 OPS in the month.
Nola quieted that offense on four hits. He walked three and struck out eight.
The right-hander is on quite a roll. He has given up just 11 hits and one earned run over 23 innings in his last three starts. He has 28 strikeouts over that span.
Just enough offense
Despite not throwing a pitch over 90 mph, Atlanta starter Dallas Keuchel held the Phils to five hits and two runs over seven innings.
Jay Bruce had the Phillies’ most important hit of the night, a first-pitch, two-run double with two outs in the fourth inning. It scored Jean Segura, who had led off the inning with a single, and J.T. Realmuto, who had reached on a two-out walk that proved to be huge.
The Phillies took a 2-0 lead into the sixth inning and threatened for more after Rhys Hoskins drew a one-out walk and Realmuto doubled. Keuchel quelled the threat and induced ground balls from Bruce and Cesar Hernandez as the Phils stranded a pair of runners in scoring position.
Nola holds lead
Nola was tested in the bottom of the sixth inning. With his pitch count climbing into the 90s, he allowed a two-out walk and a base hit as the Braves began to threaten. Nola survived the threat and protected his 2-0 lead by getting dangerous rookie Austin Riley to pop out to second base.
Nola then cruised through a 1-2-3 seventh inning on just seven pitches.
The right-hander was at 100 pitches when he came out for the eighth. He retired the top of Atlanta’s order on 17 pitches and hit 95 mph on the radar gun in the inning.
Nola got 14 swinging strikes in the game, eight on his curveball.
Hector Neris struck out the side in the ninth for his 17th save.
Monday’s off-day allowed the Phillies to move Nola up a day and he made Tuesday night’s start on regular rest. Moving him up will allow him to start the final game before the All-Star break against the Mets in New York on Sunday.
Here’s the Phillies’ pitching schedule through Sunday:
Wednesday night at Atlanta — RHP Nick Pivetta (4-2, 5.63) vs. RHP Bryse Wilson (0-0, 8.31)
Thursday night at Atlanta — RHP Zach Eflin (7-7, 3.34) vs. RHP Mike Soroka (9-1, 2.13)
Friday night at Mets — RHP Vince Velasquez (2-5, 4.73) vs. RHP Jacob deGrom (4-7, 3.32)
Saturday night at Mets — RHP Jake Arrieta (8-6, 4.43) vs. RHP Noah Syndergaard (5-4, 4.56)
Sunday afternoon at Mets — Nola vs. RHP Zack Wheeler (6-5, 4.51)
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