– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
NEW YORK — It was not far-fetched to believe that the 6-0 record Philadelphia Phillies starter Aaron Nola raced out to this season was a mirage, especially when he posted a 7.71 combined ERA through his first three starts in June. On Sunday, Nola made the New York Mets’ bats appear illusional while continuing his dominant form heading into the All-Star Break.
Nola extended his scoreless streak to 22 innings while taking a no-hitter into the sixth as the Phillies defeated the New York Mets 8-3 to take the rubber game at Citi Field on Sunday. Former Met Jay Bruce smacked two home runs and the Phillies scored four in the first inning for all the runs it would need.
In Nola’s last four starts, he has allowed just two earned runs combined over 29 2/3 innings (0.61 ERA) and, today, did not allow a hit until Pete Alonso’s 30th home run with one out in the sixth. Nola admitted afterward that he did not have a great feel for his pitches today, but the man who finished third in the NL in Cy Young Award voting last year had more than enough guile to make up for that.
“My off-speed pitches were working pretty well,” said Nola, who improved to 8-2 on the season. “My fastball velocity didn’t feel great today. My command wasn’t as good as the last start. I was throwing my off-speed for strikes, in and out of the zone, which helped.”
Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto hit run-scoring doubles in the first inning off Zack Wheeler before Bruce’s RBI single later in the inning gave the Phillies a 4-0 lead.
Bruce’s day got better from there, hitting a two-run homer in the sixth to give Philadelphia a 6-0 lead before his solo blast in the eight moved the Phillies 7-2 in front. Since coming to Philadelphia in early June after a trade with Seattle, Bruce has hit 10 home runs and driven in 29 runs in 28 games as a member of the Phillies. Seven of those 29 runs batted in, including his RBI single in the first this afternoon, turned out to be game-winners.
Philadelphia’s uneven first half of the season (47-43) saw it in first place in the NL East for most of April and May before Atlanta overtook them and the rest of the division by putting up the league’s best record in the month of June. The Phillies sit in third place, 6 1/2 games behind Atlanta and a half-game behind the Washington Nationals.
New York clearly was one of the league’s underachievers (40-50), with the offseason fanfare of acquiring Edwin Diaz, Robinson Canó and Jed Lowrie not panning out as planned. The Mets young players, namely second-year outfielder Jeff McNeil and rookie Pete Alonso, have been the team’s bright spots, with Alonso reaching 30 homers before the All-Star Break today.
As the Mets sit 13 1/2 games out of first place and seven games in back of Philadelphia for the second Wild Card spot, they’re still holding out hope that they have a run in them to get back in contention.
“Anything can happen in baseball. I’ve seen it all,” said Mets manager Mickey Callaway. “We need to have a sense of urgency because of the possibilities. And in my mind, anything’s possible.”
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Sunday afternoon’s game, with all photos taken by ALOST photographer Arturo Holmes. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 23 pictures in total.