Top of Order Powers Phillies as Aaron Nola Returns to Form Against Yankees

Jun 13, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola (27) throws a pitch in the first inning against the New York Yankees at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

This is the game the Phillies needed. It’s also the one they have failed far too often to get in recent years — the one that makes the difference between a fine stretch and an outstanding one.

And thanks to the efforts from three of the most frequently criticized Phillies on Sunday afternoon, they finally got it.

Aaron Nola, Jean Segura, and Odúbel Herrera teamed up to ensure the Phillies kept their first true momentum in over a month by completing a 6-2 homestand. They also helped the team get back to the right side of .500 for the first time since May 19.

The Phillies will hope to ride the wave as they begin a hellacious six-game road swing out west against the Dodgers and Giants, two teams that entered the day a combined 28 games over .500 at 78-50.

For today, however, there has to be some hope among Phillies fans that their team won’t spend another lackluster summer as the afterthought they were rapidly spiraling toward following weeks of underwhelming play.

As for Nola, he was was outstanding over 7 2/3 innings in which he didn’t give up a run and allowed just three hits while striking out nine Yankees batters.

His performance served as a stark contrast from his work over the previous month.

Dating back to May 9, a span of six starts, Nola had pitched to a 5.68 ERA while yielding a .299 average and .875 OPS to opposing hitters. Watching him shove against the Yankees for seven-plus innings in front of 38,512 fans at Citizens Bank Park in this one, you’d never know he entered the day in the midst of one of the worst stretches in his career.

Nola attacked Yankees hitters early with his fastball, filling up the zone with strikes on all eight of his first-inning pitches. He threw his four-seam fastball a total of six times in the opening frame, averaging 94.8 mph with it, a notable uptick from his 92.7 mph season average.

After succumbing to a tentative approach at times in recent outings, Nola remained aggressive in the zone throughout, throwing strikes on 16 of first 18 pitches through two innings and on 35 of 44 pitches (79.5%) through four innings, while also beginning to mix in his secondary offerings. His curveball was particularly effective, generating swings and misses on eight of the Yankees’ 22 swings on it.

Brett Gardner straight up did not have a good time with the pitch.

Pitching with a sizable cushion throughout, Nola didn’t face any high-stress situations. In fact, only one of the four baserunners he allowed reached second base.

At 103 pitches (75 strikes) with two away and nobody on in the eighth, Nola was pulled by Phils manager Joe Girardi, who was greeted with strong boos, but it was the right move.

No need to run him over 110 pitches in a seven-run game at that point. Plus, for a guy who has had some notably shaky Septembers in recent years, occasionally saving some bullets isn’t a bad idea.

Herrera and Segura Continue to Rake

But…but…they didn’t run hard!

Angelo Cataldi and the WIP Morning Show weren’t enamored with Herrera or Segura a day after the two helped propel an extra-inning walk-off win over the Braves last week.

Among the complaints were that Herrera didn’t score the winning run easily and Segura didn’t bust it out of the box on his walk-off hit.

Of course, Segura didn’t need to get beyond first base and Herrera wanted to ensure he would reach third on a tag play in the event the ball hung up. Our guy Anthony San Filippo wrote about the misguided critique here.

What will they have to complain about tomorrow?

Herrera, he of a .282 average and .795 OPS, and Jean Segura, he of a .339 average and .863 OPS, combined for five hits, three RBI, and three runs scored in this one.

In the first inning, the two teamed up to help get the Phillies on the board, doing so with quality two-strike approaches. Those early at-bats helped set the tone for a lineup that banged out 10 hits in four-plus innings off Yankees starter Domingo Germán, who entered the day allowing just 7.4 hits per nine innings.

Herrera flipped a two-strike fastball from German into left field to get things started before Segura capped a seven-pitch at-bat with an opposite-field single to put runners on the corners.

J.T. Realmuto would bring home Herrera with an infield single.

An inning later, it looked like they might waste a scoring opportunity with runners on the corners and nobody out, but Herrera delivered a key two-out RBI double. Segura then broke things open by following with a two-run single.

Segura wasn’t done yet, as he opened the fifth inning with his third hit of the day, a triple, giving him three consecutive games with three hits, two of which, of course, included game-winning walk-off knocks.

The triple ignited a three-run inning that buried the Yankees in a 7-0 hole, one they were happy to remain in for the remainder of the day.

Baby Steps For Alec Bohm

After a 1-for-4 day, Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm now has a modest five-game hitting streak working.

He had a simply brutal finish to the month of May, going just 1-for-23 (.043 BA) over his final eight games last month, but he’s slowly picking things up in June.

Bohm remains in the midst of a 73-plate appearance streak without an extra-base hit that dates all the way back to May 18, but he’s 11-for-31 (.355 BA) in nine games this month.

Gotta start somewhere.

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