LOS ANGELES — Gabe Kapler dropped his portfolio onto a dugout chair Thursday evening and left his perch at Dodger Stadium to meet Aaron Nola, who returned from the dugout after his seventh brilliant inning.
But the manager had to wait his turn as a small receiving line had already formed in the Phillies dugout. Nola — who allowed just one run in a 2-1 win over the Dodgers — had that type of day. The righthander yielded just two hits, struck out seven, and walked one. He threw 111 pitches, 73 of which were strikes. This, as Kapler tends to say, was “Noles being Noles.” The pitcher’s latest gem lowered his ERA to 2.18.
Kapler eventually squeezed his way to Nola and shook the pitcher’s hand before returning to his perch and grabbing that portfolio. Nola started the evening in a duel with Clayton Kershaw. He ended with his team six outs away from salvaging a split of the four-game series.
“I think there’s a lot of pride from Noles,” Kapler said. “I think he understands that he put our team on his back against the best pitcher over the last six, seven years in Clayton Kershaw, and went toe to toe with him and outlasted him. Noles was just sensational.”
Kapler called on rookie Seranthony Dominguez, the team’s most trusted reliever who has yet to meet a situation that is too big. Dominguez retired the six batters he faced. Kike Hernandez greeted Dominguez by starting the eighth with a deep fly to the right-field corner. But Aaron Altherr sprinted and slid to make the grab. Altherr saved him, Dominguez said. Scott Kingery added his own spectacular play in the ninth when he slid to grab Justin Turner’s sharp grounder and made the long throw to get him at first. Dominguez was not the only one who was perfect.
“We’re lucky to have Seranthony,” Kapler said. “Three weeks ago he was at Lehigh Valley and now he’s in Dodger Stadium with a one-run lead picking up a two-inning save. Very impressive.”
The Phillies gave Nola a lead in the top of the seventh when Scott Kingery scored from first on Jorge Alfaro’s double to right center. The hit fell between centerfielder Cody Bellinger and rightfielder Yasiel Puig and bounced to the warning track. Alfaro was out at third to end the inning, which ended up being a blessing. Nola was on deck and would have been pulled for a pinch-hitter if Alfaro was safe. Instead, he was able to throw another inning.
Kershaw, in his first start since May 1, did not throw a pitch harder than 90 mph but he still tamed the Phillies for five innings. He didn’t throw a fastball in his final inning of work yet still managed to strike out the side. Kershaw allowed just one run on four hits. He struck out five and walked one. Kershaw, even with reduced velocity, was still tough to crack.
The Phillies scored their lone run against Kershaw without the runner even touching home plate. Alfaro dropped a single into center and Maikel Franco sprinted home from second. The throw skipped away from catcher Yasmani Grandal and Franco stepped over home, but umpire Will Little still ruled him safe. The Dodgers did not ask to review it. The Phillies would take anything they could against Kershaw.
“A couple guys asked me right away ‘Did you touch home plate?’ I was like ‘No.’ But all that matters is we got the run and we won the game,” Franco said. “When something happens, they call the video guy right away so I was a little bit surprised. I sat down and I was like ‘They’re not showing that play?’ and when that happened I was like, ‘We got that run.’ Crazy.”
The Dodgers used four relievers to record the final 12 outs. And each of them proved to be just as challenging as Kershaw. But the Phillies scored the lone run they would need when Kingery sprinted home. He made sure to stomp his cleat on the plate before returning to the dugout. Nola had his lead. And three outs later, his manager was looking for him in the dugout after another day of “Noles being Noles.”