Going into Game 6 of the National League Championship Series with a 3-2 lead against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Philadelphia Phillies have the opportunity to close out the series and punch their ticket back to the World Series.
Game 6 starter Aaron Nola isn't leaving anything to chance heading into the Phillies' biggest game of the postseason. While the veteran has obviously done his due diligence with his usual pregame preparation, he has also given us a glimpse of his mindset and approach on the mound.
In speaking to the media prior to Game 5, when none of us knew which team would have the series lead heading back to Philadelphia, Nola, as calm as ever, waxed philosophical on the podium, invoking the name of another former Phillies great.
"The only thing, you know, I can control is the controllable, which is the delivery and most of where the ball goes," Nola said of his mindset. "But once it leaves my hand, the results are out of my control. So I've tried pretty much my whole career to understand that and to know that it's out of my control."
Where did he pick up such a simple and healthy outlook on facing down the pressure-packed situations pitchers find themselves in on a regular basis?
"I saw this article on Roy Halladay, what he said years ago," Nola said. "He said something like pitchers, you know, we'll get caught up in the seven innings or three runs or less. He [Halladay] always said that he controls the next pitch that he throws and tries to make that a quality pitch.
"So I kind of read deep into that, and it's true. I feel like a lot of times we do get caught up in, you know, having really good outings. Obviously it's good, but at the end of the day, what's our main job? And our main job is to, is to compete and to try to make quality pitches and to control the strike zone."
Nola is wise to learn from the pitching legend of Halladay. After all, it was just over 13 years ago that Halladay wowed the baseball world with his 2010 NLDS no-hitter for the Phillies. And that came on the heels of his perfect game during the regular season. Halladay knew a thing or two about pitching.
Despite seeming calm and composed, almost unaffected by the gravity of the situation ahead of him, the importance of the Phillies' situation isn't lost on Nola, who told reporters, "I mean, everything matters so much right now."
When Nola takes the ball and makes the walk to the mound tonight to face down the Diamondbacks, you know he'll be in a good place, mentally, for the task at hand.
"Baseball is baseball," Nola finished his philosophical lecture. "Sometimes you make a pitch and you get a bloop hit that scores a run. Sometimes you throw a pitch down the middle and they pop it up, so you just never know with this game.
"That's why it's so beautiful."