Aaron Nola stares down Yoenis Cespedes and the Mets, becomes The Man on Phillies' staff

Aaron Nola stares down Yoenis Cespedes and the Mets, becomes The Man on Phillies' staff

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Aaron Nola did more than become the first Phillies pitcher in 124 years (since the distance from the mound to home plate went to 60 feet, six inches) to rack up 10 straight starts of six or more innings while allowing two or fewer runs when he led his team to a 3-1 win over the New York Mets on Saturday night.
 
He became The Man on the Phillies' pitching staff (see Instant Replay).
 
After watching the Mets' hitters bully Phillies pitching too many nights this season and last, Nola did something about it when he faced Yoenis Cespedes with two outs and a runner on base in the sixth inning.
 
Two innings earlier, Cespedes had hit his second homer in as many nights and fifth of the season against the Phillies when he clubbed a hanging Nola curveball into the left-field seats to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. It was the Mets' 18th homer in six games at Citizens Bank Park this season.
 
The Phils took the lead with two runs against Steven Matz in the fifth inning and Cespedes came up in the sixth looking to do damage.
 
Nola got ahead of the Mets' slugger with two quick strikes then fired the next pitch, a fastball, up and in on Cespedes. It was the type of pitch that screamed, "You guys are a little too comfortable up there, and it’s time that ended."
 
Cespedes took exception to the pitch and glared at Nola. Unfazed, Nola came right back and struck out Cespedes on the next pitch, a nifty changeup.
 
Nola was asked if he saw Cespedes glaring at him. Now, to illustrate Nola's growth as a pitcher and competitor, it's worth noting that a year ago he probably would have sidestepped the question. This time, Nola took the question head-on.
 
"Yeah, I was aware," he said.
 
And what was he thinking as Cespedes stared him down?
 
"I'm just trying to execute my next pitch," Nola said. "That's pretty much it."
 
He executed a beauty.
 
Matz had Cespedes' back. He came up and in on Nick Williams — actually hitting the Phillies' outfielder — in the bottom of the inning. Nothing escalated.
 
Nola's handling of Cespedes in the sixth was clearly a growth moment for the 24-year-old pitcher.
 
"I was happy to see him do that," manager Pete Mackanin said. "I wish we saw more of that to keep those hitters honest so they don’t lean out or dive over the plate. I think that’s going to contribute to any success that all of our pitchers have if they do that."
 
Said Nola: "I definitely didn’t want him to beat me again. You definitely have to pitch inside to these guys. It was nice to take one win from these guys. They’ve handed it to us quite a few times this year and in the past."
 
Nola struck out eight and walked just two. He has a 1.71 ERA in his last 10 starts and is averaging 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings over that span. His WHIP is 1.000 in those 10 starts.
 
Nola's success has come from the ability to locate his fastball and breaking ball at the knees. His improved changeup has complemented everything.
 
"I'm really not trying to do too much, trying to simplify, get ahead and execute all my pitches," Nola said.
 
"He's been terrific," Mackanin said.
 
Nola wasn't the only one who was terrific Saturday night. Freddy Galvis had a big hit to give the Phillies the lead in the fifth inning. He also cut down a potential run at the plate. Maikel Franco played well at third base. Cesar Hernandez drove in the Phils' first run (and made a big play at second to end the game) and Tommy Joseph plated an important insurance run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
 
But this was a pitching-based win — the Phils' first against the Mets in six home games this season — first with Nola and then with the bullpen. In particular, rookie Ricardo Pinto showed no fear striking out Cespedes on three pitches, including a 98-mph finisher — with two men on base in a one-run game in the top of the eighth.
 
"He went right after a tough hitter," Mackanin said. "That was super, a big confidence booster for him."
 
And a good win for the Phillies at home against the Mets. Finally.

Best of MLB: Indians get walk-off win over Red Sox on error

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Best of MLB: Indians get walk-off win over Red Sox on error

CLEVELAND -- Brandon Guyer scored when first baseman Brock Holt threw away Roberto Perez's bunt in the 10th inning, lifting the Cleveland Indians over the Boston Red Sox 5-4 on Monday night in a matchup of first-place teams.

After Guyer's leadoff double against Brandon Workman (0-1), Holt fielded the bunted ball and tried to throw out Guyer at third. Guyer slid into the bag as the throw skipped past third baseman Rafael Devers, then got to his feet and raced across home plate. Teammates ran onto the field and doused Perez with water and white powder.

Perez also had a three-run homer in the second inning.

Cody Allen (1-6) allowed Christian Vazquez's leadoff single in the 10th, but retired the next three hitters. The inning ended when shortstop Francisco Lindor ran down Mookie Betts' popup in center field with his back to home plate.

Cleveland relief ace Andrew Miller left in the seventh inning after aggravating the patellar tendinitis in his right knee. Miller recently returned after over two weeks on the disabled list with the knee injury (see full recap).  

Albers gives Mariners win over former team
ATLANTA -- Andrew Albers worked into the sixth inning for his second straight win since coming up from the minors, leading the Seattle Mariners to a 6-5 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Monday night.

Albers (2-0) also had the first hit and RBI of his career -- in his first big league at-bat.

The 31-year-old left-hander beat his former organization, having spent most of the season at the Braves' Triple-A club. He went 12-3 but never got a call to the big leagues.

Instead, Albers was dealt to the Mariners for cash on Aug. 11. He was called up by Seattle to make a start four days later, working six strong innings in a 3-1 win over Baltimore.

Now, after going just over four years between major league victories, Albers has two wins in less than a week.

Mike Foltynewicz (10-9) has lost four of his last five starts for Atlanta (see full recap).

Pollock’s 2-run blast lifts D-backs over Mets
NEW YORK -- A.J. Pollock hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning and the Arizona Diamondbacks snapped a three-game skid with a 3-2 victory over the New York Mets on Monday night.

J.D. Martinez had an RBI single and left fielder David Peralta threw out the potential go-ahead run at the plate for the Diamondbacks, who began the day with a 2 1/2-game lead over Milwaukee for the second NL wild card. They are 4-0 against the Mets this season and have won nine of 10 meetings over the last two years.

Pinch-hitter Gregor Blanco walked to start the 10th. One out later, Pollock sent a 94 mph fastball from Eric Goeddel (0-1) over the center-field fence to put the Diamondbacks back in front after they squandered a 1-0 lead in the seventh.

Fernando Rodney gave up a leadoff homer to Michael Conforto before getting three outs for his 28th save in 33 tries.

Jimmie Sherfy (1-0) pitched a perfect ninth for his first major league win (see full recap)

Bruce Bochy on Hector Neris: 'He's an idiot'

Bruce Bochy on Hector Neris: 'He's an idiot'

The Giants don't seem to be too fond of Hector Neris.

The Phillies on Sunday were clinging to a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning when Hector Neris entered the game. The reliever inherited runners on first and second with two outs and Giants All-Star catcher Buster Posey at the plate.

On a first-pitch fastball, Neris plunked Posey, who called out the Phillies' closer afterward.

"I'm pretty certain he hit me on purpose and it's just a shame because I wanted to compete in that at-bat," Posey said. "I guess he didn't feel he could get me out.
 
"It was a big spot. It would have been fun to hit."

In that situation, purposely hitting a batter makes little sense, as it advances the potential game-tying run into scoring position and puts the go-ahead run on base. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin acknowledged just that, while Neris denied any intention behind the hit by pitch. Despite the bases-loaded jam, Neris struck out Pablo Sandoval to escape before closing out the 5-2 win with a scoreless ninth inning.

Things didn't end there, though.

A day later, Giants manager Bruce Bochy had something to say about Neris.

"It wasn't just a little inside. The same guy … I'll say it, he's an idiot," Bochy said Monday before the Giants' series opener against the Brewers. "He showed it in Philadelphia when he was having words with (Eduardo) Nunez. I think that caused the radar to be up a little bit on what happened there."

The incident with Nunez in which Bochy refers to apparently happened during the Phillies' 9-7 win over the Giants on June 4 at Citizens Bank Park. According to CSNBayArea.com's Alex Pavlovic, Neris appeared to blow a kiss at Nunez after a ninth-inning strikeout. Following a game-ending punchout of Brandon Belt, it looks like Neris glances over at the Giants' dugout before catcher Cameron Rupp stops him.

None of the above explains why Neris would feel any intent to hit Posey in such a tight spot more than 2½ months later.

"You never know for sure, but it certainly didn't look good, did it?" Bochy said.

"It wasn't a glancing blow — it was at his ribs, on the backside of the ribs. So, no, I'm not surprised [Posey was upset]. I would have been upset, too.

"Anyway, that's behind us."

For now. 

While the Phillies and Giants don't play again this season, baseball players sure have great memories.