Nola carries the Phillies back to the postseason
After years of failing to play deep into October, in 2022, the Phillies made the postseason for the first time since 2011. It represented Nola's first taste of the playoffs in his career.
So it was fitting that he was on the mound for game No. 160, putting up a brilliant performance to help the Phillies clinch that coveted wild-card spot. Against the Houston Astros, he struck out nine in 6 2/3 innings as the team went on to win 3-0.
How masterful was he? In the biggest pressure-filled moment of his career to that point, Nola carried a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Astros.
Fast forward to Sept. 26, 2023, and Nola once again found himself taking the field with the opportunity to send his team to the postseason for the second straight year, this time against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He turned in another 6 2/3-inning performance, giving up only one earned run as the team came back to win it in walk-off fashion.
In that same game, he achieved another feat, reaching 200 strikeouts for the fifth time in his career.
After the Pirates game this year, manager Rob Thomson made it clear how much faith he had in Nola, telling reporters: "I trust him with my life in a big game. He did it again."
It might have taken the workhorse eight years to get to the postseason, but he didn't waste any time once he got there. Over the past two seasons, he went 5-3 with a 3.70 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings across nine starts.
Teammates who are together for the grueling run of spring training, a 162-game regular season and hopefully the postseason know more than anyone what any given player means to the team. And over the years, they haven't hesitated to sing the praises of Nola.
"If I could label him and say how important he is as a pitcher and a teammate and just to an organization, it would be this game [against the Pirates]. You rely on him. You need him. And he goes out and does that," Kyle Schwarber said in 2022, according to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
The two aces atop the lineup have made the Phillies a tough opponent, especially in the postseason:
"I'm so thankful for Aaron's friendship and the mentorship and what kind of teammate he is. You always root for guys like that. He's been a big brother to me my entire career and really helped me kind of find myself in the big leagues," former teammate Zach Eflin said when he faced off against Nola earlier in 2023, according to Adam Berry of MLB.com.
When talking about teammates in September with Evans, the homegrown talent said: "To me, my teammates are the most important right? I've been in battle with these guys for a while, that's what I love about it. ... It's a special group of guys."
NEXT: Nola shows his love for the fans and the city