Another gem for Aaron Nola, but Joaquin Benoit, Phillies suffer late loss to Brewers

Another gem for Aaron Nola, but Joaquin Benoit, Phillies suffer late loss to Brewers


MILWAUKEE -- As the Phillies move into the second half of this rebuilding season, their focus — aside from winning games — is identifying building blocks for the future.

And it looks like they may have found a big one in their starting rotation.

Aaron Nola pitched a gem Saturday night, holding the NL Central-leading Brewers to two runs on seven hits and a pair of walks while striking out seven over six innings in the Phillies' 3-2 loss (see Instant Replay). His strong work was undone in the eighth inning when Joaquin Benoit served up a homer to Travis Shaw the broke a 2-2 tie. Benoit picked up the loss.

"You hold this team to two runs over six innings, you've done a good job," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said of Nola. 

Nola missed a chance to improve to 3-0 lifetime against Milwaukee by serving up a game-tying home run to Hernan Perez in his final inning but has left an impression over his last five outings, going 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA during that stretch.

"Just getting ahead in the count and getting the leadoff hitter out has been key for me," Nola said. "Those are the biggest thing that takes stress off you each inning. Tonight, I let some leadoff guys on and didn't get strike one enough."

A first-round pick of the Phillies (seventh overall) in the 2014 draft, Nola made a strong impression as a rookie, going 6-2 with a 3.59 ERA in 13 starts in 2015. He made 20 starts for the team last season and went 6-9 but saw his ERA jump to 4.78 thanks to a rough six-week stretch during which he went 0-4 with a 13.50 mark in five starts.

A sprained ulnar collateral ligament combined with a mild flexor strain in his pitching elbow brought his season to an end in late July and after a rough spring training this season (0-3, 8.38 ERA), he took the victory in two of his first three starts before hitting another rough patch that saw him go 1-5 with a 4.89 ERA over his next six outings.

He's bounced back in a big way since.

"I'm really happy for him and for us because he really turned it around," Mackanin said. "When he started off in the big leagues, he looked like a really good find. Then he went through that period when he was searching. He had the arm issue, the command issue then he got out of it and now he's better than ever. That's a real bonus."

Mackanin looks at Nola and the way he worked through adversity early in his career as an example the rest of the young players on his roster can learn from as they continue their development.

"Just because you start off real good doesn't mean it's going to continue," he said. "You have to battle through any issues you have, which he did, and now he's learned and gone through that process and is better for it. That's what everybody has to do. (Nick) Pivetta's gotta do it, (Ben) Lively's gotta do it. They all have to do it. Even the hitters."

The Phillies have had some top-notch talent anchoring its rotation over the last decade. Nola isn't quite at the level of Cole Hamels or Roy Halliday just yet, but he's showing signs that he could get to that point in the not-so-distant future.

"I try to do everything I can to win every time I go out there," Nola said. "I do every thing I can to keep the ball low, give up the least runs I can and just battle. I'm going to battle my butt off every time I go out there and give them a chance to win."

MLB Notes: Twins-Braves, Royals-Padres make trades

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MLB Notes: Twins-Braves, Royals-Padres make trades

MINNEAPOLIS -- Hoping to bolster their rotation for a playoff run, the Minnesota Twins have acquired veteran left-handed pitcher Jaime García, catcher Anthony Recker and cash considerations from the Atlanta Braves for minor league right-hander Huascar Ynoa.

The 31-year-old García is 66-52 with a 3.65 ERA and 808 strikeouts in 176 appearances, mostly with St. Louis (2008, 2010-16). He missed the 2009 MLB season following Tommy John surgery.

Garcia is 4-7 with a 4.30 ERA, 41 walks and 85 strikeouts in 18 starts for the Braves this year.

While Garcia's numbers don't jump off the page, the Twins were in need of a veteran arm to put into a rotation that has been largely disappointing behind the top two starters, Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios (see full story).

Royals: Cahill, Maurer, Buchter acquired from Padres
DETROIT -- The contending Kansas City Royals have acquired three pitchers from the San Diego Padres, getting starter Trevor Cahill, closer Brandon Maurer and reliever Ryan Buchter.

The Royals sent pitchers Matt Strahm and Travis Wood, minor league infielder Esteury Ruiz and cash to San Diego on Monday. The deal came one week before the nonwaiver trade deadline.

Kansas City began the day tied with Tampa Bay for the second AL wild-card spot and 1 1/2 games behind AL Central-leading Cleveland. The Royals had been looking to bolster their rotation and bullpen, and did it with one swap.

Cahill was 4-3 with a 3.69 ERA in 11 starts for the Padres. The 29-year-old right-hander was an All-Star with Oakland in 2010.

Maurer is 20-for-23 on save tries, and 1-4 with a 5.72 ERA. The 27-year-old righty began his big league career with Seattle in 2013 as a starter.

Buchter is 3-3 with one save and a 3.05 ERA in 42 games. The 30-year-old lefty pitched 67 times for the Padres last year.

Dodgers: Kershaw lost to DL with back injury
LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw is headed to the disabled list for the second straight summer because of a back injury.

A year after missing 2 1/2 months with a herniated disk in his lower back, Kershaw was pulled from a start Sunday against Atlanta because of lower back tightness. The Los Angeles Dodgers ace exited after two innings in a 5-4, 10-inning victory.

It leaves baseball's top team without its best pitcher. The Dodgers lead the majors with a 68-31 record and are atop the NL West standings by 10 games.

Kershaw was set to meet with a back specialist Sunday evening for tests, although manager Dave Roberts was already sure that Kershaw would be placed on the 10-day DL (see full story).

Mets: Wheeler put on DL because of arm trouble
NEW YORK -- The New York Mets have put pitcher Zack Wheeler on the 10-day disabled list because of a stress reaction in his right arm.

The Mets didn't provide a timetable for Wheeler's return. He was on the DL last month with biceps tendinitis and has struggled in four starts since his return.

The team recalled righty Tyler Pill from Triple-A Las Vegas before Monday night's game at San Diego.

Wheeler joins Mets starting pitchers Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Robert Gsellman on the disabled list. Steven Matz and Seth Lugo recently came off the DL and returned to the rotation.

The 27-year-old Wheeler didn't pitch in the majors the past two years after having Tommy John surgery in 2015. He is 3-7 with a 5.21 ERA in 17 starts.

Tonight's lineup: Nick Williams moves up to 3rd for hot-hitting Phillies

Tonight's lineup: Nick Williams moves up to 3rd for hot-hitting Phillies

The hot-hitting Phillies made some minor tweaks to their lineup for Monday's series opener against the American League-beset Houston Astros at Citizens Bank Park.

Nick Williams, Odubel Herrera and Tommy Joseph all move up in the lineup with Howie Kendrick getting the day off. Williams will hit third, Herrera moves up to fifth and Joseph will hit sixth. Andrew Knapp is catching and batting seventh. Cameron Perkins is playing left field and batting eighth.

Williams is hitting .309 with four home runs, four doubles, two triples and 15 RBIs in 19 games since being called up from Triple A Lehigh Valley on June 30. He had a two-run homer and another RBI in the Phillies' 6-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday afternoon.

After his 1 for 3 day with an RBI on Sunday, Herrera moves up spot. The centerfielder is hitting .331 with a major-league leading 19 doubles since June 3.

Joseph was 0 for 4 on Sunday with two strikeouts. He hit seventh against the Brewers but will hit sixth tonight.

Vince Velasquez (2-5, 5.14)  is on the mound for the Phillies. He'll be opposed by Brad Peacock (8-1, 2.49).

Here is the Phillies' full lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, RF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Odubel Herrera, CF
6. Tommy Joseph, 1B
7. Andrew Knapp, C
8. Cameron Perkins, LF
9. Vince Velasquez, SP

For more on tonight's game, read Corey Seidman's game notes.