The 17 runs were great, but Aaron Nola's performance was even better

The 17 runs were great, but Aaron Nola's performance was even better

BOX SCORE

Citizens Bank Park rocked like the good ol' days of Jimmy, Chase and Ryan on Saturday night thanks to an offensive explosion that saw the home team score a club-record 12 runs in the first inning en route to a 17-3 victory over the Washington Nationals in front of a giddy crowd of 37,241.
 
But in the grand scheme, the Phillies' offensive deluge was really just a subplot to what mattered most.
 
Aaron Nola returned to the mound in a regular season game for the first time since going to the sidelines with an elbow injury July 28, 2016, and the right-hander, hugely important to this team in the present and future, put a lot of minds at ease with six strong innings of work.
 
"The big story for me was Nola," manager Pete Mackanin said. "I think he needed a good performance for his own confidence and I saw a lot of what we’re looking for out of him."
 
Nola commanded his pitches down in the zone and had some of that old tail on his two-seam fastball. He gave up three runs on seven hits and two walks. He struck out seven.
 
Nola got a nice lift from third baseman Maikel Franco, who turned a nifty 5-3 double play to get the pitcher out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning. The Phillies' bats then went crazy against Jeremy Guthrie in the bottom of the inning and Nola took a 12-0 lead to the mound in the second inning. He responded by striking out the side.
 
"I felt really good with my pitches tonight (and) pretty much with my command," Nola said. "I missed (his spots) with a couple of pitches that got hit and they scored some runs. But my body felt great. It just felt great to get back out at Citizens Bank again.

"I'm healthy. I know a lot of people are wondering, or have been wondering, or are still wondering, but I'm healthy. And I feel great. I just want to stay healthy and maintain that for the remainder of the year."
 
Nola was also part of the Phillies' offensive onslaught. He had one of the team's 15 hits, drew a walk and scored two runs, one of which came in the biggest first inning in team history.
 
"Any time you score runs like that it’s going to be giddy and electric," Nola said. "It was fun. The dugout was fun."
 
Howie Kendrick, Michael Saunders and Tommy Joseph all had two hits in the first inning. Kendrick had a bases-loaded triple in the inning. Saunders finished the night with a single, double and triple. Cam Rupp and Andres Blanco both homered in the game.
 
Joseph came into the game 0 for 13 on the young season. Both of his hits in the first inning drove in runs. Blanco playfully left two game balls, dated and marked with Hit 1 and Hit 2, in Joseph's locker after the game.
 
"It was kind of incredible," Joseph said of the first inning. "Just one of those things that kept going and going and escalated. It was really fun to be a part of. Even Nola was a part of it, too, which was pretty awesome. It was a lot of fun to see what we were able to do."
 
It was not fun for Guthrie. His 38th birthday got off to a good start when he was summoned from the minors to make the spot start for Washington. It went downhill shortly after taking the mound. He faced 12 batters in the first inning and only got two outs. He allowed 10 base runners and 10 runs.
 
Guthrie has pitched 12 seasons in the majors, but spent all of last season in the minors and went to spring training as a non-roster player with Washington. It's not unreasonable to wonder if he'll ever pitch in the majors again.
 
"It's just a huge disappointment to put that kind of effort forward," Guthrie said. "Warming up, I had every anticipation that today would be a good day on the mound, and it just wasn't.
 
"I didn't locate early, and the first couple guys got hits. And after that, finding the strike zone seemed like a real struggle. When I found it, it was more of the zone than it was an actual location. And the stuff wasn't crisp. I always knew I was one pitch away, but that one pitch just never came."
 
The Phillies' big first inning came after they scored six unanswered runs after being down 7-0 in Friday's series opener.
 
"Honestly, I think it's a testament to what we did yesterday being down seven runs and coming back," Saunders said. "We didn't win the game but getting within one swing of the bat and getting to their bullpen and carrying that momentum into today was big."
 
The assignment will be a lot more difficult for the Phillies when they face Stephen Strasburg in the series finale Sunday afternoon.
 
Maybe the Phillies should have eased up Saturday night and saved a few runs.
 
"No," Saunders said. "You're never content."

Larry Bowa on Jim Bunning: His words 'resonated throughout my career'

Larry Bowa on Jim Bunning: His words 'resonated throughout my career'

Beyond the center field wall at Citizens Bank Park, retired Phillies uniform No. 14 was draped in black cloth on Saturday afternoon.
 
Jim Bunning, who wore that number during six seasons with the club, died late Friday night at his home in Kentucky. The Hall of Fame pitcher, who went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, was 85.
 
Bunning was a workhorse right-hander who pitched with smarts and competitiveness during his 17 seasons in the majors. He also pitched with the Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers. He averaged 35 starts and won 89 games during his six seasons with the Phillies. He also authored one of the most iconic moments in club history when he pitched the franchise's first perfect game on a searing hot Father's Day in 1964 against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.
 
Talking about a perfect game as it is unfolding is considered baseball taboo. To mention it is to risk jinxing it. But Bunning broke tradition and in the late innings of that game talked openly with teammates in the dugout about the possibility of finishing off the feat.
 
"Jim Bunning was way too practical of a man to worry about a jinx," former teammate Rick Wise once said. Wise pitched the second game of that Father's Day doubleheader. It started 20 minutes after Bunning completed his perfecto and Wise had trouble finding a ball and a catcher to warm him up because everyone was busy celebrating the perfect game.
 
Bunning went 224-184 with a 3.27 ERA in 591 career games. He led the American League with 20 wins in 1957. He led the league in innings twice and strikeouts three times. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1996 and went into Cooperstown as a Phillie.
 
Bunning had two tours with the Phillies, 1964-67 and 1970-71, and was a straight-laced competitor who expected effort and excellence from his teammates. During his second time through Philadelphia, as he was nearing the end of his career, he was a teammate of a young shortstop named Larry Bowa.
 
"I remember him coming up to me and saying, ‘Don’t ever, ever lose your energy. I don’t want to turn around and see your head dropping because you’re 0 for 3,’" Bowa recalled Saturday. "He said, ‘I don’t ever want to see that.’ He said, ‘You’ve got to be accountable. You’ve got to play with energy. You’ve got to play every inning of every game.
 
"I made an error one day and he turned around — I didn’t even want to make eye contact with him — he turned around and he was rubbing the ball and looked at me and I went, 'Yeah, I know I should have caught it.' He was just that intense."
 
Bunning had a mean streak on the mound. He led the league in hit batsman four times.
 
Bowa recalled the time Ron Hunt — a notorious plunkee — did not get out of the way of a Bunning breaking ball. As Hunt ran to first base, Bunning admonished him.
 
"He went over and said, 'Ron, if you want to get hit, I’ll hit you next time and it won’t be a breaking ball.' That’s what kind of competitor he was."
 
Bunning suffered a stroke last year.
 
"I knew he had been sick," Bowa said. "Tremendous, tremendous person who taught me a lot about the game in a short time.
 
"He always gave me good advice. He talked about self-evaluation with me all the time. He said you’ve got to be accountable in this game, no one gives you anything in this game. I never had a pitcher mentor me like he did. In spring training, he told me, ‘Keep your mouth shut and your eyes and ears open.’ It was that simple. I said, ‘Yes, sir.’
 
"When a guy like that takes the time with someone who is just starting, it’s, I mean, it resonated throughout my career."