It was quite a Monday for Philadelphia Phillies ace Aaron Nola.
In terms of career milestones, he hit a lot of them. The right-hander was named to his first All-Star team, took the National League lead in wins with 12, notched 10 strikeouts through seven scoreless innings in a 3-1 Phillies victory over the Mets, and moved the Phillies into a first-place tie with the Atlanta Braves for the N.L. East lead.
However, on a day of milestones, it was a single play that grabbed the headlines.
In the top of the fifth inning, Mets pitcher Corey Oswalt intentionally walked struggling third baseman Maikel Franco to load the bases.
It was Nola who then stepped into the batter’s box. In a scoreless game, he drilled a first-pitch fastball down the right field line for a three-run double.
“That was the moment in the dugout when I heard the loudest celebration of the year,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Nola’s double. “His teammates were so happy for him. It was pretty special.”
Nola is the first Phillies starting pitcher to get an All-Star nod since Cliff Lee in 2013. He is also on pace to possibly win the N.L. Cy Young Award, which would make him the first Phillies pitcher since Roy Halladay in 2010 to win the award.
In just his fourth season in the majors, that’s some special company to be mentioned in.
“He’s been really, really good from Day 1 of his career,” Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins said.
“For him to finally get the recognition from across the league and maybe nationally that he deserves, it was cool to see. I’m happy for him as a teammate, I’m happy for him as a friend, nobody more deserving. The guy works his tail off every single day, he’s got a routine like nobody I’ve ever seen.”
Through July 10, the 2018 Phillies record of 51-39 puts them ahead of the 2008 Phillies, who were 50-43 at this point in the season. There have been many comparisons of this group to the special group in 2008, which brought home the World Series title.
Left-hander Cole Hamels dominated in the postseason on his way to the World Series MVP Award and a group of scrappy hitters backed him up for the unlikely title. Nola has already shown what he’s capable of at his best and if the Phillies make the postseason, they’ll be a team that nobody wants to face.
The Phillies have a quick stop in Baltimore to play the Orioles on Thursday, and then finish the weekend with a three-game series in Miami against the Marlins. All games will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia.