Having been swept soundly by the visiting Atlanta Braves in a doubleheader by a combined score of 13-2 on Sunday, the Philadelphia Phillies will turn to ace Aaron Nola to reverse fortune in the finale of a four-game series on Monday.
Nola, who’s 0-1 with a 3.97 ERA, will make his third start of the season. On Wednesday against the New York Yankees, he was brilliant, tying a career high with 12 strikeouts in six innings.
Nola holds an impressive 10-5 career mark with a 2.94 ERA in 18 starts against the Braves.
After a stellar season 2018 in which Nola finished third in National League Cy Young voting, he slipped a bit last season. Through two starts this season, Nola appears to be regaining his form of the ’18 season.
“I felt like I had games like that last year, too,” Nola said. “I think the main thing was my changeup was pretty consistent. That’s what I had back in ’18 and a couple games last year, but I think that was a separator.”
Phillies manager Joe Girardi said he had always been enamored with Nola prior to coming to Philadelphia. Watching his ace perform firsthand has only strengthened that opinion.
“He was brilliant against a very tough lineup,” Girardi said of Nola’s outing against the Yankees. “It’s unfortunate it was only his second start and we had to get him out. But he was as good as I’ve seen him.”
Nola will need more offensive support than the Phillies provided in the doubleheader sweep. In the second game, especially, the offense struggled mightily with a total of four hits, two by Rhys Hoskins, in the 8-0 loss.
The Braves, meanwhile, were an offensive juggernaut in the two wins on Sunday, led by Ronald Acuna Jr.’s three home runs. He hit his second of the season in the Braves’ 5-2 win in the opener, then produced his fourth career four-hit game in the nightcap, including two more homers.
Freddie Freeman also added three hits in the second game for the surging Braves, who are looking for their third win in a row.
The Braves will hand the ball to left-hander Sean Newcomb, who is 0-1 with a 6.57 ERA.
This will be Newcomb’s fourth start. On Wednesday, Newcomb gave up five hits and two runs in 4 2/3 innings in a 2-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in Atlanta.
Newcomb, who is 2-1 with a 3.16 ERA in 11 games against the Phillies, including four starts, hasn’t pitched five innings in a game yet this season.
“I obviously want to go out and go more than five (innings) and have a better start, but there’s definitely been progress,” Newcomb said.
“The offspeed is getting better, and these have been my first three starts in over a year and a half. It’s been a little bit of an adjustment. But I think I’m starting to click again in using the whole repertoire,” Newcomb said.
Braves manager Brian Snitker believes his left-hander will continue to improve.
“That was encouraging from Newk,” Snitker said. “It was a lot better than his first two. So hopefully he figures some stuff out.”
–Field Level Media