Aaron Nola dominates Yankees, Phillies win 4-0.
Last night felt like the regular season. Aaron Nola was on the mound to face the majority of the projected starters for the New York Yankees. He didn’t disappoint. Nola threw 84 pitches, 56 of which were strikes and the Phillies won 4-0. Nola finished the night throwing six innings of shutout baseball, allowing only one hit and striking out nine. Brandon Kintzler, Tony Watson, Hector Neris, and Enyel De Los Santos all pitched in relief, throwing a combined three scoreless innings and striking out three.
Nola had been beaten up during Grapefruit League play this Spring and entered last night’s game with an ERA of 10.38. As we all know, we never put too much weight around Spring Training numbers at The Liberty Line and we never will. Last night was what you would expect from your Opening Day starter. The 27-year old was in full control of his fast ball and off speed pitches the entire night.
At the plate, Didi Gregorius hit a two-run home run, finishing the night 2-for-4 with two RBI. Rhys Hoskins, who much like Nola, was off to a slow start this Spring, went 3-for-3 with an RBI, walk, and run scored. Alec Bohm and Roman Quinn had hits of their own and the Phillies as a whole had 11 hits compared to the Yankees’ two.
The Phillies will open up the 2021 season against the Atlanta Braves on April 1st. Aaron Nola will be on the mound, facing the Braves on Opening Day for the third time. Two of his previous three were against the Braves. If you remember correctly, in 2018, bonehead Gabe Kapler decided to pull Nola after just 68 pitches with the Phillies up 5-0 in the ball game. They would lose that game 6-5. In 2019, Nola pitched six innings and allowed only one hit against the Braves, guiding the Phillies to a win. His other Opening Day start came last year against the Marlins, a game in which the Phillies lost.
Over his career, Nola is 11-6 with a 3.05 ERA against the Atlanta Braves in 20 starts.
As predicted, Nola will start Opening Day with Zack Wheeler starting the second game on April 3rd, and Zach Eflin starting game three against the Braves on April 4th. Eflin, who was pretty much locked in as the third pitcher in the Phillies’ rotation all Spring, was dealing with some back spasms that put his start in jeopardy. Eflin was able to throw a bullpen session on Sunday and is now scheduled to return to the mound on Wednesday in a simulated game. That would then allow Eflin to pitch one last Grapefruit League game next Monday before making his scheduled regular season debut on Easter Sunday.
JT Realmuto is recovering from a fractured thumb he suffered at the start of Spring Training. According to Joe Girardi, Realmuto had a “great day” yesterday and could be in the lineup as soon as tonight, which would be huge for Realmuto as he would have a full week of action before Opening Day.
Brad Miller, Scott Kingery, and Centerfield
Utility man Brad Miller has been dealing with an oblique strain that has kept him sidelined the last few weeks. He’s still recovering and is not quite ready to get back into the lineup. If Miller isn’t ready to go on Opening Day, the Phillies will turn to Scott Kingery as their go-to utility man. Kingery, who has struggled this Spring, has essentially lost the battle for the starting centerfield position thanks to a strong Spring from Odubel Herrera and a consistent one from Roman Quinn. Adam Haseley will be the third man in centerfield when he recovers from a groin strain.
Spencer Howard and Vincent Velasquez
It’s still unclear what the Phillies plan to do with Spencer Howard and Vincent Velasquez. Howard has pitched well this Spring but is currently dealing with back spasms. Velasquez has had an up-and-down Spring and we’re not sure if he will make the Phillies ball club at all. Velasquez remains a trade possibility or will likely slide into the bullpen. As for Howard, it’s likely he will at least start the season in Triple-A.
Three Pitchers Have Been Removed
It was announced yesterday that the Phillies trimmed their pitching candidates by three, with Ramon Rosso, Bryan Mitchell, and Michael Ynoa, all reassigned. Rosse will remain on the 40-man roster while Mitchell and Ynoa were minor-league contracts invited to camp this Spring.
These cuts left the Phillies with 40 players in their major league camp. More cuts are expected this week as the Phillies trim down to their final 26-man roster before the April 1st opener.