No. 2: Aaron Nola establishes himself as an ace
This wasn’t a particular moment as it was more of a collection of moments where Aaron Nola really established himself as a potential ace. Nola came into the season a complete question mark not for his performance, but for the fact that he missed the last two months of the 2016 season with an elbow injury. Elbows are finicky things and fans were understandably worried about whether or not Nola could return to 100 percent.
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By the end of the season, it became clear that Nola’s elbow was not only healthy, but that his performance had improved. As a whole, Nola finished the year with a 3.54 ERA (121 ERA+), 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings, 2.6 walks per nine, and 1.208 WHIP in 27 starts.
Nola’s most impressive string of starts came between June 22 and Aug. 12 when he had a 1.71 ERA, .196 batting average against, 78 strikeouts, and 19 walks in 68.1 innings.
This stretch included dominant starts against the playoff-bound Astros and Rockies.
It’s hard to pick just one start to label the best of the year, but one that certainly has an argument was his start Sep. 13, the day after (of?) the two-walk-off game mentioned earlier. The bullpen was battered after such a long game and the team needed Nola to deliver a strong start. He did just that, striking out a career-high 11 batters in seven innings while giving up just one run on four hits and two walks. It’s starts like that make people think Nola could receive Cy Young votes and be this team’s ace.