When a team finds itself with their ace on the mound – especially in key games – they’re supposed to win. For the Phillies, four straight starts by ace Aaron Nola have now gone to waste as they fell to the Atlanta Braves 7-2 Monday night in the opener of a four-game series.
The series is key not because the Phillies have much, if any, hope of catching the Braves for the NL East crown, but because they came into the series having cut their deficit in the NL Wildcard race to just two games behind the Chicago Cubs. Their loss dropped them to three games back of Chicago and they’re now also trailing not only the Arizona Diamondbacks, but the Milwaukee Brewers in the hunt for the final playoff spot. Milwaukee is one-game ahead of the Phillies and the D’backs are one-half game in front of the Phils.
As for Nola, he didn’t help himself in allowing four earned runs in six innings of work. Ronald Acuna Jr. led off the game with a home run against Nola and he then had to work out of a bases-loaded, nobody out jam, where he allowed just one more run. He then allowed two more runs in the second inning. Nola has not won a game since August 20th when he beat the Red Sox in Boston in a 3-2 game.
Since the win in Boston, the Phillies have lost four straight starts by Nola, including losses to Miami and Cincinnati, two of the weaker teams in the majors. The other loss came to the New York Mets. Over the four games, Nola has a record of 0-2 and an ERA of 5.02, dropping his season stats to 12-5, 3.70 in 31 starts for the Phillies.
The Phillies have scored 14 runs in Nola’s last four games.
The only good news of the night was that Bryce Harper returned to the Phillies lineup. He had left Friday night’s game after being hit by a pitch on his right hand and did not play on Saturday in New York. He did pinch-hit on Sunday and drew a bases-loaded walk to drive in his 101st run of the season. On Monday night, Harper was 0-for-4 with one strikeout.