Phillies finally have a frontline starter in Aaron Nola

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MILWAUKEE, WI - JULY 15: Aaron Nola #27 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches in the second inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on July 15, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - JULY 15: Aaron Nola #27 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches in the second inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on July 15, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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With an unstable rotation the past two seasons, the Phillies finally have the top-of-the-rotation starter they have been looking for in Aaron Nola.

It has been a long, tumultuous road for the Phillies the last six seasons. After a run of five straight division titles, two straight World Series appearances and one championship, they tumbled down the standings as their veterans fell off and/or got injured.

The “Phour Aces” rotation of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels was one of the best rotations ever assembled in baseball. Slowly but surely, they all faded away. Halladay and Lee’s careers were lost to injury while Oswalt was done after just a season and a half in Philly. Hamels was the last to leave in the 2015 trade the marked the official raising of the white flag, bringing about the team’s current rebuild.

Since the loss of all these talented pitchers, the team has suffered through years of journeyman just meant to get the team through the season. In 2015, the season where Philadelphia finished with the worst record in the league, they used 14 different starters over the course of the season.

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This year, they haven’t been much better, with Jake Thompson Friday night marking the 10th starter the team has used this season. The rotation is by no means solidified, but one player has emerged as the next pitcher who can head a future Philadelphia rotation: Aaron Nola.

Through his first six starts this year, no one was saying that about Nola. He had a 5.06 ERA and had given up four or more runs in half of those starts.

Nola missed a month between starts due to a back strain that left fans feeling worried that the injury bug would continue to come back to bite him.

Since May ended, Nola has been utterly dominant on the mound. He has struck out 10.43 batters per nine innings, walked just 2.54 per nine, and has a 2.27 ERA. In his last seven starts, he has struck out eight or more batters except for once and walked more than two batters just once. Opposing hitters have just been unable to touch Nola.

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Nola is coming off another gem, striking out a career-high 10 batters against the Astros last Wednesday. This is the same Astros team that has a 69-36 record and is running away not just with the AL West but home-field advantage in the American League playoffs. Only the Dodgers with their ridiculous penchant for winning in the last month possess a better record.

Nola showed not just in that start, but in the last two months, that he is the starter this team needs to help stabilize and front their rotation. The Phillies have suffered through several inconsistent starters over the year, but it seems like they have found one in Nola.

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The team needs to assemble pieces to surround Nola – they may have a few in Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, and perhaps even Sixto Sanchez well down the line – for them to make another playoff push, but having that big piece is a huge first step.

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