Aaron Nola made quite the statement on Sunday afternoon to remind the National League that he is still one of the circuit’s top pitchers.
The 27-year-old right-handed ace posted his third-career complete game — all in the last two seasons — and his first-career nine-inning shutout, going the distance in a 2-0 victory, allowing just two hits while striking out 10. That one outing lowered his season ERA from 3.45 to 2.19.
“He’s our ace,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “You can look at his numbers every year and it says ace.”
He became the first Phillie since Roy Halladay’s perfect game in 2010 to allow two or fewer hits in a shutout with no walks while striking out 10.
Bryce Harper gave Nola an immediate lead, launching a mammoth solo moonshot into the second deck of the right-field stands off Cardinals starter John Gant — who performed admirably despite the losing effort with two runs allowed on five hits with five strikeouts, but also walked five as he struggled with control.
“Stud, man, solid rip by Harp,” Nola said of Harper’s blast. “We’ve seen it time and time again from him. That was a great way to start the game off.”
Gant’s day could have been much worse in the fifth after he loaded the bases with one out — walking Rhys Hoskins before giving up a double to Harper and intentionally walking JT Realmuto. But after Alec Bohm drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to double the Phillies’ lead, he got Didi Gregorius to pop out to keep the Cardinals close.
But there was no touching Nola, as the Philadelphia ace retired 13-straight batters beginning in the third inning following a fielding error by Nola, which spanned until the eighth inning when Paul Dejong led off the frame with a single.
Nola proceeded to get Dylan Carlson to fly out before striking out Justin Williams and Austin Dean — and had every intention of finishing his game even at 102 pitches entering the ninth. If not, things could have gotten ugly.
“I was going to fight him,” Nola said jokingly when asked what would have happened if Girardi tried to pull him.
“It kind of went by quicker than I thought,” he said of the ninth in which he retired Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, and Nolan Arenado in order. “Fans were loud in the ninth inning, that was pretty cool. Great win, great series win. … First Gatorade shower I’ve ever had, surprisingly.”