Aaron Nola will have a tough time topping his last outing when the Philadelphia Phiilies face the Colorado Rockies in Denver on Saturday.
The right-hander pitched a gem against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday, tossing a shutout in a 2-0 win.
That one occurred at Citizens Bank Park, a much more pitcher-friendly venue than Coors Field. So he can be forgiven if he doesn’t match his 10-strikeout, two-hit performance against the Rockies.
The Rockies will counter with righty Antonio Senzatela (1-3, 5.40 ERA) in the second of a three-game series.
Colorado won the opener, 5-4, on Friday night when Raimel Tapia hit a walk-off home run off of Hector Neris to cap a four-homer night for the team.
Nola (1-1, 2.19) is making his fifth start of 2021 and has begun the season strong. He is averaging seven strikeouts a game and in 24 2/3 total innings, he has only walked three batters.
He also has had success against the Rockies and at Coors Field. He is 1-0 with a 3.55 ERA in two starts in Denver and overall is 3-0 with a 2.49 ERA in four career starts against the Rockies.
The key stat for Nola is how few walks he has issued at Coors Field — three in 12 2/3 innings. Walks in the thin air can be dangerous for pitchers, and they can turn a one-run inning into five or six runs.
Phillies manager Joe Girardi knows what Coors Field can do to a visiting pitcher’s psyche. He was a catcher for three years for the Rockies, starting with their inaugural season in 1993, and he learned how a pitcher’s performance can be measured differently.
“What you learn is eight or nine runs here is like three or four everywhere else,” he said. “Give up a three spot it’s not a big deal. You have a chance to come back.”
Even a well-pitched ballgame isn’t always rewarded. Senzatela knows that from his last outing, a six-inning start against the New York Mets. He allowed two runs — one earned — and suffered the loss.
Senzatela has started four games this season, and when hasn’t faced the Los Angeles Dodgers, he has been successful. He has allowed 12 runs (11 earned) in six innings against the reigning World Series champions but only two runs (one earned) in 14 innings in his other two starts.
He deserved a better fate against the Mets, and manager Bud Black was pleased with Senzatela’s outing.
“I was impressed by his use of the changeup and his breaking ball was effective,” Black said. “And he had velocity to the fastball. All three pitches worked. He was throwing the ball with authority in the zone and with conviction.”
Senzatela got an extra day of rest with Colorado having two off days around a series sweep of Houston. He will be facing the Phillies for the fifth time. In his four career starts against them, he is 0-2 with a 4.08 ERA.
–Field Level Media