Consistency eluding Phillies’ ace Aaron Nola amid rocky 2021 start

Aaron Nola Phillies
Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola sank to 3-2 on the season while his ERA rose to a 3.59 in 2021.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

If Aaron Nola wants to repay the Philadelphia Phillies for their faith in labeling him the starting rotation’s ace, he should probably get on that sooner rather than later.

The Phillies’ No. 1 arm struggled yet again on Sunday in a 6-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves, lasting just four innings while allowing five runs on five hits with four strikeouts. He sank to 3-2 on the season while his ERA rose to a mediocre 3.59 in 2021 — not exactly top-line stuff.

But a deeper delve into the stats doesn’t necessarily prove he’s incapable of living up to the expectations built in 2018 when he finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting. The 27-year-old is sporting a solid 1.028 WHIP with a career-best 1.5 walks per nine innings and a 6.63 strikeout to walk ratio.

It’s just not coming together for Nola yet, though, especially on Sunday that saw him go out for the shortest start of his career. He lasted just 58 pitches as he helped squander an opportunity for the Phillies to take a big series against the NL East-rival Braves.

“You know how tough of a loss it was and of course I put it on me,” Nola said. “It was a chance to go out and win a series. I didn’t do that. I didn’t give the guys a good chance to score runs. I’m going to flush this one and move onto D.C.”

He threw 25 pitches in the first inning alone as the Braves posted four runs in the frame to put Philadelphia behind early.

“I never expect to get pulled early,” Nola said. “I know the situation. It was a tough first inning for me, we were down, 5-1, at that point, and we needed to scratch some runs. But it’s just a tough one today.”

“My stuff really wasn’t breaking tonight. I feel like the curveball wasn’t sharp the past few outings.”

And that’s where the root of the problem presents itself: Nola simply has not been consistent enough to be leaned upon as the true ace of the Phillies’ staff — whether it’s this year or the last few seasons.

This is already the third time this season out of eight starts that he’s failed to get past the fifth inning and the fourth time he’s allowed three earned runs or more.

On top of that, he has a 3.70 ERA since the start of the 2019 season. That’s not good enough to carry the Phillies’ rotation in a loaded National League East.

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