The Philadelphia Phillies edged the host Saint Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium.
To say that the Phillies pitching has carried the club to its surprising 16-11 start to the 2016 season is a massive understatement. That dominating pitching was on display once again last night in Saint Louis, where the Fightins edged out the host Cardinals by a 1-0 final score.
The dominance was supplied this time by Aaron Nola, who delivered the latest in a string of strong performances to begin his season. Nola (2-2) went seven innings for the third straight start, and for the fifth time in his six outings, allowing just two hits while striking out seven and walking just one batter.
Thus far on the season, Nola has allowed just 25 hits, only nine for extra-bases, over 40 innings with a 44/7 K:BB ratio. The bullpen was just as dominant. Hector Neris struck out all three batters he faced in the 8th inning, and then Jeanmar Gomez recorded his 9th Save in as many chances.
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Asked for any keys to his success thus far this season, Nola was quoted by MLB.com’s Joe Harris: “Try to mix my changeup in more. I didn’t do it too too much tonight, but when I did, I felt like I used it efficiently. Just trying to command the ball down in the zone and try to command it in and out and up.”
Back in his hometown against the ball club he rooted for as a kid, Ryan Howard delivered the offensive heroics once again. The Big Piece drove a one-out, first-pitch offering from Cardinals starter Michael Wacha out to right-center field for a solo home run, his 6th long ball of the season. It was all the scoring for the night from either team.
Wacha (2-2) was strong himself. The ace of the Cardinals staff, Wacha allowed just five hits to the typically feeble Phillies offense. He struck out eight and walked three over eight innings. But he made that one mistake to Howard, and ultimately paid for it with the loss.
Howard now has hit for a career .336/.439/.656 slash line with 22 homers and 66 RBI against Saint Louis. Those are career highs for the Phillies slugging 1st baseman against any non-divisional opponent.
“It’s always good to be able to come home and play,” Howard said per Harris. “This is home. This is where it all began for me. I think it’s just something different when you get to play against the team you grew up watching.”
Peter Bourjos also contributed in pretty much the only way he has all season, with his speed and glove. Bourjos robbed Randal Grichuk of a potential run-scoring hit with a tremendous sliding catch in right field to end the 4th inning.
With the victory the Phillies again moved five games over the .500 mark at 16-11. Thanks to losses by the Nationals and Mets, the Phils are now just a game behind New York for 2nd place in the NL East, and 2.5 back of Washington for the division lead.