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PHILADELPHIA — Aaron Nola knew he was tired, knew his pitching count “was creepin’ up there,” and knew he was in trouble when his four-pitch walk to Zach McKinstry to start the seventh inning was followed by an error on Edmundo Sosa, putting two Tigers on base with no outs.
“I was going to keep going,” Nola said. “I’d never gone into the eighth inning with a no-hitter before.”
Try as he might, Nola still hasn’t.
He did get two outs in that seventh inning Monday night before his old, chatty buddy Nick Maton came to the plate. Nola got two quick strikes on the former Phillies bench player, including one on a check swing that Maton called bull crackers on right to home plate ump Junior Valentine. But after fouling the next pitch, Maton was gifted with an inside hanging curve ball from his former teammate, and he delivered it into the right field seats, saluting the shot as it went on its way.
“That was kind of a dagger, right? Especially (since) Maton hit it,” Nola said. “I just had to shake it off and try to finish that seventh. And Thomper (manager Rob Thomson) let me stand out there and do it.”
But losing the no-hit bid didn’t keep Nola from winning the night.
Cleared of additional trouble after getting Eric Haase to end the seventh and his outing after 108 pitches, Nola sat back and watched as the Phils shrugged off any comeback thoughts for the Tigers, building on the lead en route to an 8-3 win.
Nola, who had allowed nine earned runs over his prior two starts, a no-decision loss in Atlanta and a loss in New York to the Mets, struck out a career-high 12 batters and also due to Sosa’s error wasn’t charged with an earned run.
He’s now 5-4 with his ERA dropping to 4.30, while his confidence has risen.
“I knew my pitches (count) were creeping up and I was a little tired toward the end,” he said. “But guys made some good plays behind me. It was a good team win.”
Also creeping up was Nola’s velocity on his fastball, which he attributed to being “stronger on my front side. Sometimes I get lazy with that.”
“He lost the zone a couple of times but I thought his stuff was really good, his velocity was good and his curveball was good,” Thomson said. “Except for the one he gave up to Maton.”
That one he figures he’ll keep hearing about.
Asked if he figured he expected to hear Maton pay a call to him soon, Nola said, “For sure. Probably for the rest of my life.”
Nola was also surprised to hear a couple of times that he’d earned strikes (and one of his strikeouts) by watching opposing hitters violate the pitch clock. He made a point that he thought the clock was running a bit fast on this night.
“I looked up and there was five seconds left on one and J.T. (Realmuto) was telling me to get off the field,” Nola said. “And on another the ump was in front of the plate tapping his wrist. You kind of know it’s fast when those guys get banged for it, too.”
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