PHILADELPHIA – By the end of the first on Saturday, Aaron Nola had racked up as many strikeouts as he had in his entire previous outing.
PHILADELPHIA – By the end of the first inning on Saturday, Aaron Nola had racked up as many strikeouts as he had his entire previous outing.
Nola struck out the page – all looking – in the opening frame and route to matching a career high with 12 strikeouts in a 2-1 win against the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park. He also whiffed 12 batters on May 8, 2018, against the Giants.
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It was a welcome turnaround for Nola, who had only three strikeouts over just three innings on Monday against the Brewers. Yet on Saturday, the Phillies' ace looked far more like the pitcher who finished third in last year's NL Cy Young Award one of the one who started the day with a 4.86 ERA.
Nola dominated with his fastball early, using it to finish off Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story and David Dahl in order in the first inning. He then leaned heavily on his curveball the rest of the way, recording eight of his final nine strikeouts with the breaking ball. That included two strikeouts apiece in the second, third and fourth innings ̵
The right-hander threw 30 of his 41 curveballs for strikes, including a season-high 10 on swings and misses. Overall, Nola induced 15 swinging strikes Saturday, three more than any of his previous nine starts this season.
Phillies fans were treated to another refreshing sight in the bottom of the first inning, when Bryce Harper cloaked a home run over the batter's eye and onto Ashburn Alley beyond the center-field wall. It traveled a projected 466 feet, according to Statcast, making it the Phillies' longest home run at Citizens Bank Park since Statcast began tracking in 2015.
Paul Casella is a reporter / editor for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.