Aaron Nola Opens Up About His ‘Inconsistent’ Season, Phillies Fan Admiration, Emotions & More

ATLANTA — Aaron Nola likes to pitch in front of Phillies fans. That might surprise some, given the vitriol he’s received over the years. He’s polarizing, similar to Rhys Hoskins. He can strike out seven and give up three home runs in the same outing. But nevertheless, he loves the passion of the fans.

“They show up because they expect us to win. They want us to perform. And we all understand that,” Nola said Friday. “I like playing for them. They hold you to a standard. They expect you to win, and so do we. form.

Some have pointed to Trea Turner as an iconic player in the Phillies’ struggles through their first 50 games, but Nola shares that weight as well. He called his first 11 starts “inconsistent”. Some days he feels bad and has great results. Other days he feels good and does poorly.

Aaron Nola pitches against the Atlanta Braves in the first inning Thursday. He allowed eight hits and five earned runs in six innings. .Learn moreJohn Bazemore/AP

On April 28, in Houston, he went eight innings, allowing one earned run and no walks with six strikeouts. Thursday night in Atlanta, he went six innings, allowing five earned runs and two walks with seven strikeouts. He gave up three homers — the most he’s allowed in a game since July 18, 2019. There are a lot of factors at play. Nola induces a lot of ground balls, and the Phillies defense hasn’t been stellar so far. But he owns his fights. He is disappointed with the results.

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“Not great,” Nola said of his first 11 starts. “A few good games, a few bad games. A bumpy road – good and bad and good and bad. Inconsistent is the right word. Getting the ball out of the stadium has hurt me this year, as we saw last night. Too many home runs. It would be one thing if they were solos, but I feel like half of them aren’t solos.

Thursday’s start against the Braves was particularly frustrating and not just because of the three homers. Nola prides himself on not giving out free passes and he gave away two against Atlanta. His fastball drive was shaky. He feels like he may have tried to do too much, thought too much on the mound.

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But after nine years in the big leagues, he learned not to go too high or too low. This is how he learned to throw from his father, AJ, and his brother, Austin. He sees it as a competitive advantage not to join hands with the other team. Unlike pitchers like reliever Matt Strahm, who scream and pump their fists after moments of frustration or joy, you rarely see Nola show emotion on the mound.

But that doesn’t mean he’s unaffected by what happens in a game, good or bad. That’s not to say he doesn’t hold himself to the level fans hold him to. And that certainly doesn’t mean he doesn’t care.

“I grew up showing no emotion in games,” he said. “I was taught that. If someone says something that I don’t care about, I care. I don’t show emotion because that’s part of it. I was never brought up like that It’s not my personality.

“I’ve always been told not to give the other team the upper hand on emotion. And that’s how I do it. I’m competitive internally. It’s certainly not because I Good game, bad game, there’s no way I’m saying I don’t care if this happened. Of course you care. That’s why we’re here. We got a job like everyone has a job. It’s like someone is having a bad day at work. Internally, they care.

Aaron Nola during the National League Championship Series against the Padres in October. .Learn moreYong Kim / Staff Photographer

Nola sees that the fans care too. It’s one of the reasons he loves playing in Philadelphia. Of course, fans can take their passion to extremes, which is why Nola deleted social media from her phone a few years ago and rarely checks it. But the good outweighs the bad. He cites last year’s playoffs as an example of the impact fans can have.

“I like that they are passionate,” he said. “I’d rather have a passionate fan base than not. Especially for the playoffs last year – it was the coolest experience I’ve ever had. Every game. It was addicting. Even when I wasn’t throwing. Because of the atmosphere. Energy. Victory is pure. Nothing else matters except winning this game.

“I had a great place for it all. And I appreciate it so much, because I came in 2015 when we weren’t so good. We were rebuilding. Seeing this organization take these small steps to get there – it’s really cool to be a part of it.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to winning. Doing your job and winning. Obviously there will be bumps in the road throughout a season. You won’t be hot all year. There are there will be hard times and fun times, but I try to embrace the hard times because it makes the good times so much more enjoyable. I try to learn from the struggles. Learn from what you did wrong or of what you didn’t do as well and capitalize on that the next time you pitch.

Additional plinths

The Phillies made a minor trade Friday, claiming outfielder Cal Stevenson from San Francisco Giants waivers and giving him an option for triple-A Lehigh Valley. To make room for Stevenson on the roster, right-handed pitcher Noah Song was moved to the 60-day disabled list.

Stevenson has hit .222/.356/.292 between two triple-A teams this season. He makes good swing decisions – and has 248 career minor league walks to prove it. He can play in center field if needed and has above average speed.

“He’s a versatile player, he can play all three outfield positions,” said president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowksi. “He’s a guy we’ve loved for years. He makes contact. Works well. He’s hit in the minor leagues, but he hasn’t hit much at the big league level. He has good strike zone command.

“He’s a really good defender. And we have a place on the roster, so you try to take advantage of those things when they come up. We actually tried to acquire him when he moved last time, d ‘Oakland to San Francisco.

Dombrowski said moving Song to the 60-day disabled list is only procedural, since the pitcher has already been on the 60-day disabled list.

“He’s fine,” Dombrowski said of Song. “He threw a few batting practices. Throw to batters. He takes a few steps forward. »

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