December 9, 2023

Aaron Nola not sharp as Phillies drop out of first place in loss to Reds


Photo by Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies’ nine-game homestand began with them flying into first place in the NL East. It ended with them dropping out of that spot on Sunday.

The Phillies’ 7-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park dropped them into second place, a game behind the Atlanta Braves, who won at Washington, 6-5.

The Phils had built a two-game lead in the division with a three-game sweep of the New York Mets last weekend. After that, they lost four of six to the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Reds to give away first place.

The Phillies, 61-57, have a day off Monday before beginning an important six-game trip to Arizona and San Diego on Tuesday. The road has not been kind to the Phillies the last few seasons. They are 25-32 away from home this season.

Aaron Nola did not follow up Matt Moore’s unexpectedly amazing performance.

The right-hander fell to 7-7 and his ERA boosted to 4.48.

The Phillies are 11-13 in his 24 starts.

Nola gave up six hits and four runs in 4 1/3 innings. It was the 11th time in 24 starts that he has pitched five or fewer innings, though one of those outings was shortened by rain.

Nola entered the game with a 4.35 ERA, which ranked 42nd in the majors among 50 qualifying starters.

In his previous start against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday, Nola was brilliant. He struck out seven of the first nine batters he faced before a rainstorm ended his night.

Nola was unable to keep that momentum in this one. He allowed a leadoff homer to Jonathan India on an 0-2 pitch, two more runs in the third, and was charged with another after exiting in the fifth.

The Phillies desperately need Nola to turn things around for the stretch drive, but it’s fair to ask if he can or will. He has been inconsistent for 4 1/2 months this season and has struggled in September throughout his career.

In 27 September starts, he is 7-12 with a 4.28 ERA.

The Phils stayed close until the eighth inning when the Reds scored for three two-out runs against Connor Brogdon and Hector Neris. Tucker Barnhart drove home the first of the runs with a double, one pitch after Brogdon appeared to have struck him out on a 1-2 changeup. The pitch was obviously a strike, but home plate umpire Sean Barber, who had a rough day, called it a ball and Barnhart capitalized.

The next batter, Tyler Stephenson, belted a two-run homer against Neris.

The Reds had problems with Barber’s strike zone earlier in the day. Nick Castellanos was called out on strikes in the first inning and ejected for arguing. Castellanos is an All-Star and one of the Reds’ top hitters. His leaving the game was a break for the Phillies but they did not capitalize.

Now, the Phils are in second place with 44 games to go.

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