August 25, 2018
Okay, so the Phillies may be playing themselves out of a playoff spot (they currently stand three games behind the Braves). But if they do collapse and spend October at home, there could be some small consolation.
The Phillies have not only a true ace, but an arm fast becoming one of the top 3 or 4 in the entire league.
In his most recent start, a duel against the Nationals and Cy Young front-runner Max Scherzer, Nola showed he is an ace of aces, tossing eight shutout innings while escaping two major jams — the second of which a two-men on scenario with Bryce Harper at the plate in the eighth inning.
The fact that the former first round pick has pitched with poise and with as much excellence as he has is a complete bonus, as the college star was expected to simply be a quick-to-the-majors mid rotation innings eater. He's become much more than that.
“It’s tough to account for three pitches and I think part of that is why Aaron Nola in my opinion is the Cy Young this year,” Phils' manager Gabe Kapler told reporters after Thursday’s game. “Of course, Nola is our guy. But, I watch him every time out there and just the dependability, the consistency, the creativity, the numbers. The numbers speak for themselves.”
Aside from Mets' Jacob DeGrom's striking lack of run support, with just eight wins despite a 1.71 ERA, Max Scherzer looks to be the leader for the award at a glance. He has a dominating lead in strikeouts and also has more than 12 more innings pitched than his Nola does. But there are several factors in Nola's favor.
The Phillies are much more invested in a division and pennant race than the Nationals, and "victory bonus" is a palpable factor for Cy Young voters. Nola has also succeeded despite some of the worst defense and worst hitting offenses in all of baseball behind him. He is receiving more than one run less per game in run support than his Washington counterpart.
Nola has allowed fewer home runs in total and has a lower slugging percentage against him than Scherzer does. He also pitches in a very hitter-friendly ballpark.
The Phils ace, just 25, will be in action again this coming Tuesday against Washington yet again — which could be a repeat of the battle of the aces.
So while an NL East title — while still very much possible — would be the greatest payoff for this season, the Cy Young race continuing into the fall will certainly be a very enjoyable piece of commiseration for fans who have endured a very interesting season.
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