Phillies’ Nola shuts down Braves
PHILADELPHIA -- During the course of the 2017 season, the Philadelphia Phillies’ expectations for what Aaron Nola will bring to the mound every five games have risen higher and higher.
But after two rough outings, it was time for the former first-round draft pick to shake off the bad vibes and get back to the way he’d pitched over the previous 10. Against a division rival his team has dominated all year, Nola did just that.
Nola returned to form with seven strong innings and added an RBI single as the Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves 6-1 on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park.
It was the sixth win in the past 10 games for the Phillies (49-81), who have the worst record in the major leagues. They improved to 12-2 against their National League East rival this season and have won each of the past seven matchups against the Braves (57-72).
“Sometimes... that happens and other times, there’s certain teams you just can’t beat,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “I can’t figure it out.”
Braves manager Brian Snitker was also at a loss when it came to getting his team to snap out of its Philly-based funk.
“If I had that message I’d have probably said it to them two or three months ago,” he said. “I don’t know, it’s just one of (those) things. We’ve just go to come out and keep grinding.”
There was no home run Monday by Rhys Hoskins, the Phillies rookie who was quicker than anybody in major league history to 10 homers, hitting 11 in his first 18 games.
However, the sweet-swinger did come up with two hits, He drove in the go-ahead run -- his 25th RBI since an Aug. 10 call-up -- in the seventh inning, when he followed Nick Williams’ double with one of his own to put the Phillies up 2-1.
“I told him I wasn’t mad at him,” Mackanin said with a smile. “The double was OK. If you’re not going to hit a home run, I’ll take a double.”
Maikel Franco followed two batters later with a single to left, scoring Hoskins.
That was enough to back Nola (10-9), who allowed one run and five hits for his second win of the month.
The Phillies’ projected ace of the future struggled in his previous two outings, giving up 12 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings in losses. However, his fastball-curveball combination frustrated the Braves to the tune of six strikeouts and no walks.
Only two Atlanta hitters got past first base.
“I was definitely a lot better tonight down in the zone, lefties and righties,” Nola said. “Felt like I made a couple mistakes, but (my delivery) really felt better tonight.”
Nola also got the Phillies on the board in the third inning, singling in Pedro Florimon after the center fielder tripled to lead off the inning. It was the second career RBI for Nola and first since his second career start on July 26, 2015.
“I was trying to put the ball in play right there,” he said. “Guy on third with one out, I don’t want to strike out.”
It took until the sixth inning for the Braves to equalize.
Brandon Phillips, who earlier extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a fourth-inning single, singled home Dansby Swanson, who had led off the sixth with a double. That made it a 1-1 game.
Lucas Sims (2-4) took the loss for the Braves. The rookie, making his sixth career start, held the Phillies to four hits and one run through the first five innings.
Sims departed with one out in the seventh, having given up eight hits and four runs. He fanned seven and walked one.
“It’s kind of the best my stuff has felt since I’ve been up here,” he said, “and to go out there and not execute when I needed to, it sucks but it’s a learning experience.”
Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp added a solo home run, his 14th of the season, to lead off the seventh inning. Rupp also drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth and pinch-hitter Andres Blanco followed with a sacrifice fly to cap the scoring.
NOTES: The series continues Tuesday night when Phillies RHP Mark Leiter Jr. (2-3, 3.86 ERA) goes against Braves RHP R.A. Dickey (8-8, 4.06 ERA). ... The Phillies are now 26-25 against the rest of the NL East this season, with 26 games remaining against the division. They haven’t had a winning record in their division since 2011, the last of nine consecutive years with a winning mark vs. NL East foes. ... Braves 2B Brandon Phillips is one hit from 2,000 for his career. ... Atlanta is a season-worst 15 games below .500.