Aaron Nola Stares Down Yoenis Cespedes and the Mets, Becomes The Man on Phillies' Staff - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Aaron Nola Stares Down Yoenis Cespedes and the Mets, Becomes The Man on Phillies' Staff

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    Aaron Nola Stares Down Yoenis Cespedes and the Mets, Becomes The Man on Phillies' Staff
    CSNPhilly.com
    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.