The Phillies’ first road trip of the season ended with a gloomy train ride to 30th Street Station after they walked in the winning run in Washington.
It was a bit different Sunday for road trip No. 2. Jean Segura picked the perfect time to hit his first homer of the season, and the Phillies could smile on their plane as they watched Tiger Woods highlights and readied for the season premiere of Game of Thrones. They’re in first place after taking two of three from Miami before a big series against the Mets. For the Phillies, life is good.
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Gabe Kapler took a blue permanent marker last week and charted the velocity difference of Aaron Nola’s pitches between this April and last April. A night earlier, Nola had allowed five runs after being blitzed in the seventh inning by the Nationals.
It was Nola’s third start of the season and the third time he didn’t quite look like the pitcher who was a Cy Young finalist last season. The Phillies, Kapler and general manager Matt Klentak said, are not concerned about Nola. But the manager was at least curious enough to do some research.
Nola’s four-seam fastball clocked at 92.48 mph in March 2018. This March, it was at 92.77. His average fastball velocity last April was 93.06. This year? 92.72.
“The velocity is barely off, if at all,” Kapler said. “... If you want to split hairs over it, split hairs over it.”
Nola will make his fourth start of the year tonight against the Mets and Noah Syndergaard, who hasn’t quite looked like himself, either. The Phillies, after opting to not upgrade their rotation this winter, need Nola to be the pitcher he was last season. Tonight is a chance to ease any concerns.
If there is one thing fair to call out, Kapler said, it’s that the pitcher’s command has not been up to his usual standards. His curveball has less horizontal movement than it did last season, but “that’s going to happen to a pitcher over a three-game stretch,” Kapler said.
“It’s certainly bright on our radar right now because we’re right at the beginning of the season,” Kapler said. “I feel very confident in Aaron Nola, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t see what is happening. I fully acknowledge that he hasn’t been perfect. But had his last start ended in the sixth inning, we’d all be saying that was a pretty good outing. It didn’t end in the sixth inning.”
Nola had allowed two runs in six innings last Tuesday when Kapler left him in for the seventh. It was an easy decision, as Nola was working a low pitch count and seemed to be finding his groove. But that’s when trouble began. He allowed two homers in the seventh, and the Nationals went on to tie the game in the ninth and win it in the 10th. And another Nola start resulted in questions.
“I am not concerned about Nola,” Klentak said. “... I do see some irony in that our manager’s been pretty heavily scrutinized for pulling guys early and there’s always an assumption that leaving him out there is going to lead to a 1-2-3 inning and Tuesday night with our best guy on the mound cruising, we ran into a buzz saw. It’s just a good reminder that it’s not always a guarantee that your starter going back out is going to lead to a 1-2-3 inning.”
The Phillies took two of three from the Marlins, but it was a bit more difficult than they might have expected, Scott Lauber writes. Before Jean Segura hit his first homer, the story was the Phillies bullpen, which combined for eight scoreless innings. Victor Arano, who struck out six in two perfect innings, might have redeemed himself after a rough spring. Lauber writes what the difference was.
Vince Velasquez allowed just one run in six innings Sunday as he showcased a new style of pitching to weak contact instead of trying to strike out every batter. It worked. “It’s just a matter of being a pitcher now. I’m not trying to overpower guys,” he said.
Saturday marked the 10th anniversary of Harry Kalas’ death. Lauber talked to Kalas’ son, Todd, about how the Phillies keep HK’s memory alive. “For them to carry the legacy on, it speaks volumes for how the Phillies are rooted in relationships, and Dad had this incredible relationship with the Phillies and their fans,” Todd Kalas said.
Tonight: Aaron Nola faces Noah Syndergaard, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Fans are invited to Independence Hall for the announcement of the 2026 All-Star Game, 2 p.m.
Tomorrow night: Nick Pivetta against Steven Matz, 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Jake Arrieta vs. Zack Wheeler, 1:05 p.m.
Thursday: Phillies open four-game series in Colorado, 8:40 p.m.
Bryce Harper has reached base, without an error, in each of the Phillies’ 14 games this season. His streak, according to Baseball-Reference.com, is tied with five others for the fifth-longest on-base streak to start a career with the Phillies. Richie Hebner has the franchise record, starting his Phillies career in 1977 by reaching base in his first 24 games. Harper still has some time to go.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: The only enjoyable part of blowout losses like Wednesday night is seeing what position players end up pitching in the last innings. I’ve always wondered how the players are selected. Does the manager or GM know if a player pitched in high school? Or do they go with who may have the freshest arm, like Aaron Altherr the other night? - Chris N. via email
Answer: Thanks, Chris. Last season, the Phillies actually had infielder Pedro Florimon throw a few bullpen sessions during spring training to prepare him to pitch in blowouts during the year. They then approached players such as Roman Quinn and Scott Kingery during the season to tell them they would use them on the mound when games were out of reach.