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October 17, 2023

NLCS: Aaron Nola hopes to remain a Phillie past 2023

Aaron Nola, the longest-tenured Phillie, has nothing new on his contract status but hopes he'll still be in Philadelphia after this season. "I love it here," the right-hander said.

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Aaron-Nola-NLDS-Game-3-Warmup-Phillies.jpg Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Nola is the longest-tenured Phillie and has only ever been a Phillies.

With each postseason start for Aaron Nola comes the possibility that it could be his last as a Phillie. 

His contract expires at the end of the year,  and while there were talks in the winter and spring between him and the organization, they were shelved before the season started and haven't been revisited since. 

So right now, he's slated to be a free agent after it's all said and done, and the Phillies are pushing for "all said and done" to equal a parade down Broad Street. 

But at the same time, Nola hopes that, in the end, he isn't going anywhere.

"I hope so," Nola said during his press conference ahead of Game 1 of the NLCS on Monday when asked about his contract status and desire to remain in Philadelphia. "I love it here. Obviously, it's the only place I've been. Came up through some special times, in the rebuilding era and getting to witness and be a part of a lot of different types of teams, and to be on a team like we are – like I am now – it's really cool and special to see and to be a part of – all the success and failures to get to where we are now."

Drafted seventh overall in 2014 as a college pitcher out of LSU, Nola made his way up to the Phillies in the back half of the 2015 season and would go on to become the club's current longest-tenured player while, at the time, establishing himself as one of the early faces of its next era. 

And he saw and stuck through it all. Good years, bad years, multiple managers, major free-agent signings and trades, front-office shifts, stalled-out playoff pushes, no fans in 2020 and the worst bullpen anyone's ever seen, some tough goodbyes to longtime friends and teammates, but then finally the postseason breakthrough and leap into World Series contention – matched with arguably the craziest postseason crowd baseball's ever seen. 

An eventful near-decade, for sure, and not one the 30-year-old right-hander wants to see stop here. 

"Not many players get to go through the rebuilding phase all the way until like the team we are now," Nola said. "So it makes me appreciate it a lot."

But keeps the focus on the here and now. 

With a new contract at stake, regardless of wherever he pitches next season, Nola put in a wildly inconsistent regular season. There were good starts, then outright bad starts, and then the starts that were looking fine until that dreaded blow-up inning struck the second time through the batting order. For the bulk of the spring and summer, you never really knew which Aaron Nola you were going to get

But he steadied up toward the end of the season as the playoff race heated up, and once the Phillies reached October, he went lights out in both of his postseason starts against the Marlins in the Wild Card round and then the Braves in the NLDS – posting a 1.42 ERA, 12 strikeouts, and a 0.87 WHIP through both outings. 

As the No. 2 starter alongside Zack Wheeler as the No. 1 at the top of the rotation, Nola has given the Phillies the confidence that they do have the 1-2 punch that can carry this run all the way to the end, and maybe even the fear to the rest of the postseason field that they do – Miami manager Skip Schumaker following the Wild Card series said the two "are going to haunt my dreams" after they shut down the Marlins. 

He'll be back up to try and keep it going Tuesday night against Arizona for Game 2 of the NLCS down at Citizens Bank Park, with a 1-0 series lead after Wheeler did his part to hold them at bay the night before.

"Anytime that [Nola] and Wheels go out there, I mean we have all the faith in their abilities to win us games, singlehandedly win us games," Bryce Harper said after Game 3 of the NLDS of the trust in the Phillies' top starters.

Or as J.T. Realmuto put it during the clubhouse celebration after winning the Wild Card Series:

"The Phillies go with Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler," the catcher said. "When those guys are nails, we're a heck of a ball club. That's what they've done for us these last two postseasons and that's what they've done for us for years."

They just have to keep being nails for two more rounds.

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