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Aaron Nola shows off ace-material in 1-0 win vs. Cardinals

Nola has gone 20 straight innings pitched without allowing a run as Howard’s solo homer proves to be game-winner

Whether or not young Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola turns out to be the true ace of the rotation for years to come still remains to be seen, but he did exactly what you would expect from an ace on the mound Tuesday night in St. Louis. A night after the Phillies served up five home runs to Cardinals batters, including an upper-deck shot from pitcher Adam Wainwright off the arm of Jeremy Hellickson, Nola shut things down in a true pitcher’s duel with Michael Waka to lead the Phillies to a 1-0 victory.

Nola went seven strong innings and struck out seven batters while allowing just two hits and issuing one walk. Nola dropped his ERA down to 2.93 in the process and evened his record at 2-2 on the season. He has now thrown 20 scoreless innings, stretching back to April 22 against the Milwaukee Brewers, when he allowed just one run over seven innings. In his last three games, Nola has struck out seven batters in each and walked just four.

What has been encouraging to see is just how well Nola is taking command of his pitches and hitting on his location. Nola showed the confidence of a seasoned vet on the mound after giving up a leadoff double to Matt Carpenter. Nola then struck out Stephen Piscotty, got Matt Holliday to ground out and got out of the inning unscathed when Matt Adams lined out for the third out. The Cardinals would not get a runner in scoring position off of Nola the rest of the evening.

“He can paint the fastball on both sides of the plate, keep hitters guessing one side or the other,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said (per MLB.com). “You can’t sit on one side of the plate because he’s so good at locating both sides of the plate and he’s got a real good breaking ball that he threw extremely well today.”

Ryan Howard provided the only run Nola needed to record his second victory in three outings. A sixth-inning home run proved to be the game-winner as Howard hit his sixth home run of the year. Howard has now hit 12 home runs in 36 games played in his home town of St. Louis. This one was a 411-foot shot over the right field bullpen.

The bullpen once again came up strong as well. Hector Neris took over in the eighth inning for Nola, who had thrown a season-high 111 pitches (76 for strikes). Neris struck out the side in the eighth inning before handing the game over to closer Jeanmar Gomez, who notched the save (his ninth of the season). The Phillies completed their MLB-leading sixth shutout of the year, once again proving that Phillies baseball may be fun again.

The Phillies improved to 16-11 with the win, bumping their road record to 8-6. They look to take the upper hand in this four-game series in St. Louis tonight when Adam Morgan (0-0, 5.40 ERA) makes his second start of the season after replacing the injured Charlie Morton. Morgan allowed three runs in five innings of work his last time out against the Cleveland Indians. The Phillies went on to win that game in 11 innings. He will be opposed by Mike Leake, who is also searching for his first win of the season (0-3, 5.83 ERA). This one might not be a pitcher’s duel, so the Phillies may have to find some offense if they are to take a 2-1 lead in this series into the finale on Thursday afternoon.

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