Let’s get the Aaron Nola stuff out of the way first, just to appease the haters.

No one is blameless on the Phillies right now, least of all Nola, who gave up all the runs in the team’s latest debacle of a loss, 4-1 to the New York Mets on Wednesday.

Nola pitched six innings and allowed just four hits, but three walks, an uncharacteristic trait that has plagued him in 2023, and each of those walks ended up scoring on two hits by Mark Canha.

The first was a two-run homer in the bottom of the third on Nola’s worst pitch of the game:

The second hit, you have to credit Canha because it’s a fast ball up and out of the strike zone and he was still able to keep a flat bat and line it into right field for a two-run single:

Nola only allowed two other singles in the game and struck out five. But the walks. Oh, man the walks.

Both walks to Daniel Vogelbach were completely uncompetitive. He walked him twice on eight pitches. I mean, Vogelbach may look like Babe Ruth, but he sure doesn’t hit like him.

(Actually, Vogelbach could pass for a dude on my Delco beer league softball team and no one would notice. I mean, seriously.)

https://twitter.com/FormerDirtDart/status/1664057067680813056?s=20

The weird thing is that Nola actually had life on his fastball again. He was throwing 95MPH instead of 90.2MPH, like he was against Atlanta. He had the curveball working. His change up was solid. The cutter… well… maybe he shouldn’t throw that pitch as much because that’s the one Canha tattooed for a homer.

Point is, Nola is two months into the season and with the exception of a few starts, he’s looked nothing like himself. He’s falling behind hitters. He’s serving up long balls at an alarming rate. The thing is, he’s good enough to not completely melt down and finds ways to battle and keep the Phillies within striking distance, but that’s something a No. 4 starter is supposed to hang their hat on, not Nola.

Nola HAS to be better. The Phillies can’t win anything without consistent pitching, and Nola has been the poster boy for inconsistency this season.

But if you are someone who looks at Wednesday’s loss and wants to pin it on Nola, then you are missing the real problem.

Because once again, the lineup was feeble.

This is the biggest worry for the team right now. Yes, people are screaming about the lack of a No. 5 starter at the moment, but that is an overblown complaint. Once again, I urge you to look around baseball and see how many teams are actually getting good pitching from the back end of their rotation. You won’t get past the fingers on one hand when you start the count.

And with Rhys Hoskins shelved for the season, (are you surprised that you miss him right now? because you shouldn’t be), Nola is getting all the extra vitriol from the chronic complainers.

But the lineup, man – what does it say about your team right now when the guy who you have the most confidence in at the moment is Kody Clemens?

That’s not a knock on Bryce Harper, who has exceeded even the loftiest expectations with his earlier-than-expected return, nor is it a knock on Bryson Stott, who has probably been the most consistent bat in the lineup. But everyone else? Their flailing swings are going on the milk cartons.

J.T. Realmuto is as much a mess right now as Trea Turner and Kyle Schwarber:

It’s ugly. Chasing pitches out of the zone. Can’t catch up to fastballs in the zone. How can guys who have for their entire careers been good fastball hitters, suddenly not be able to recognize them coming in?

The book is out on the Phillies. Fastballs up in the zone, they foul off because they are late. Fastballs on the black they take, often for strikes. Breaking pitches down in the zone, they can’t lay off.

It’s sad.

On Wednesday the were facing Carlos “Cookie” Carrasco. I mentioned his nickname because that’s what he was throwing up there – not that the Phillies were hungry for them.

In fact, after the game, Carrasco said he felt that was the best his fastball has been in at least two years. Cookie did top 94MPH a few times, mostly in the first inning, but spent most of the game in the 92MPH range.

The Phillies were consistently late on it.

Realmuto is getting a day off Thursday as Garrett Stubbs gets the nod against Max Scherzer. That’s probably a good thing, in the moment.

Schwarber’s month is now upon us, so maybe he finally starts hitting, but really, can we believe in anything about the Phillies right now?

Turner continues to be the great enigma. You have to believe that eventually he will figure it out, but in the moment, he stinks.

As for the rest of the lineup? Harper is Harper. He’s fine for now, as long as he didn’t hurt himself on that aggressive swing and miss Wednesday. Alec Bohm had an MRI on his hamstring prior to the loss. The Phillies better hope there’s nothing serious there, because they can’t afford to lose another guy. Brandon Marsh has stemmed his terrible slump a little, but only a little. Nick Castellanos is starting to become too much of a chaser again. He needs to reign that back in to stay at his mostly productive 2023 level. Edmundo Sosa hit a home run Wednesday. It’s the only run the Phillies have scored in two games against the Mets.

Then there’s Clemens, who seems to get a hit or two in every start – so there’s that.

Otherwise, there’s not a lot of confidence in this lineup right now. Not from the fans, nor seemingly from the players themselves.

And there’s nothing that can be blamed on Hoskins or Nola for that.