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.

MLB Notes: Ian Kinsler rips veteran umpire Angel Hernandez

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MLB Notes: Ian Kinsler rips veteran umpire Angel Hernandez

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler had harsh words Tuesday for Angel Hernandez, saying the veteran umpire should get a different job.

A day after being ejected from a game for questioning Hernandez's calls on balls and strikes, Kinsler told reporters covering the Tigers that Hernandez is a bad umpire who is "messing" with games "blatantly."

"It has to do with changing the game. He's changing the game. He needs to find another job, he really does," Kinsler said.

Kinsler's comments were reported online by multiple media outlets just before Detroit played the Texas Rangers and early in the game.

After the Rangers' 10-4 win Tuesday night, when Hernandez worked third base, the umpire said he didn't know about Kinsler's criticism. When told in general what the player said, Hernandez said "it doesn't matter."

"I'm not at liberty to discuss tit-for-tat what's going on. As a matter of fact, I don't even care what he said," Hernandez said. "What I care about is going out there and doing my job, to the best I can do" (see full story).

Marlins: Stanton homers in 6th straight game
MIAMI -- Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton has homered in his sixth straight game, hitting his 44th of the season off San Francisco Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner.

Stanton connected for a solo shot to left-center field in the third inning Tuesday night, tying the score at 2. The All-Star outfielder has 10 home runs in his last 11 games, and 23 in the last 35.

The major league record for consecutive games with a home run is eight, set by Dale Long of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1956, Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees in 1987 and Ken Griffey Jr. of the Seattle Mariners in 1993.

The last player to go deep in six consecutive games was Colorado's Nolan Arenado, in early September 2015.

Stanton had already broken the Miami record for home runs in a season. He surpassed Gary Sheffield, who hit 42 in 1996.

Going into Tuesday night, Stanton's 22 homers in 34 games had only been exceeded twice in major league history. Sammy Sosa hit 25 during a 34-game stretch in 1998, and Barry Bonds had 24 in 2001, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Reds: Mesoraco out 3-6 weeks with broken foot
CHICAGO -- Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco will be out three to six weeks after he broke a bone in his left foot Monday.

Mesoraco, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday, was hit by a pitch from Chicago Cubs starter Jose Quintana in the second inning of a 15-5 loss at Wrigley Field.

Mesoraco is hitting .213 in 56 games with six homers and 14 RBIs. He was an All-Star in 2014 when he batted .273 with 25 homers and 80 RBIs, but two hip surgeries and a left shoulder operation limited Mesoraco to 39 games with 95 at-bats in 2015 and 2016. In those two seasons, he had a .158 average and no home runs.

The Reds recalled outfielder Phillip Ervin from Triple-A Louisville to fill the roster spot before Tuesday night's game at Chicago.

Phillies can't overcome fielding miscues in loss to Padres

Phillies can't overcome fielding miscues in loss to Padres

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SAN DIEGO — For the second night in a row, a highly touted Phillies prospect belted his first big-league home run.

Other highlights were difficult to find in an 8-4 loss to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay).

The Phillies (43-74) are the worst team in baseball and they looked every bit of it as they were held hitless for the first 4 2/3 innings, had just four hits through the first eight innings, made two errors, misplayed another ball, walked five batters and hit another.

The sloppiness began early as work-in-progress leftfielder Rhys Hoskins, in just his sixth big-league game at the position, misplayed a catchable ball that would have ended the first inning into an RBI double. Starting pitcher Mark Leiter Jr. walked the next batter then surrendered a two-run double as the Padres put three quick ones on the board.

Leiter was tagged for four more runs in the fifth inning, but all were unearned after errors by third baseman Maikel Franco and catcher Jorge Alfaro.

Leiter allowed seven hits, including two homers, three walks (all of them scored) and hit a batter in five innings of work. Still, he may have given up just one run had he gotten some defensive support.

"He wasn't at his best, but our defense let us down," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Leiter would not blame the defense.

"That’s baseball," he said when asked about Hoskins' misplay in the first inning. "You just have to keep going and make the next pitch and get the next guy, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to get the next guy and it cost us a couple of runs. I have to do better. I have to find a way to get that out."

Hoskins' misplay came on a liner to his left by lefty-hitting Yangervis Solarte.

"That’s a tough play, especially off a left-handed bat," Mackanin said. "He looks sure-handed out there. It was just one of those plays you’ve got to be out there for a while to know how to read. It's understandable."

Alfaro, the rookie catcher, had the Phillies' first hit with two outs in the top of the fifth inning and it was memorable on a couple of fronts.

First, it was his first big-league home run.

Second, he killed it.

The two-run homer came off the bat at 114 miles per hour, making it the hardest-hit homer by a Phillie this season. It traveled 413 feet over the center-field wall and did so on a low line.

"I thought it was going to be a double off the wall," Alfaro said.

"That was a missile," Mackanin said.

"The launch angle wasn't quite high enough," he added with a laugh. "You don’t normally see home runs with that low of a trajectory off the bat. It was cool to see.

"That's why we like him. If you watch him in batting practice, you see the power."

Alfaro's first big-league homer came one night after Hoskins hit his first and second big-league homers. He added a two-run home run in the ninth inning Tuesday night as the Phillies cut into the Padres' lead but could not come all the way back.

The Phillies played without their best hitter, Odubel Herrera. He was out with a sore left hamstring (see story). Padres rookie Dinelson Lamet, who entered his 14th big-league start with an ERA of 5.00, capitalized on a weakened Phillies' lineup and pitched seven innings of three-hit, two-run ball. He walked one and struck out seven.

Rookie reliever Jesen Therrien was the Phillies' most effective pitcher with two scoreless innings and three strikeouts. He showed a tight, hard, downward-breaking slider — a weapon.

"I finally saw that slider we saw in the spring," Mackanin said. "That's very encouraging."