NEW YORK - The Phillies finished off their first half with a big first inning, another gem from Aaron Nola and a series win.
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The Phils beat the Mets Sunday, 8-3, to improve to 9-4 this season in the head-to-head series.
At 47-43, the Phillies are on an 85-win pace at the All-Star break - fewer wins than most expected and not enough to result in a playoff berth. There's still 44.4 percent of the season for them to change that outlook.
Nola is on fire. Over his last four starts, he has allowed just two earned runs in 29⅔ innings, a 0.61 ERA. The rest of the Phillies' rotation has a 7.58 ERA over that span.
Pitching like an ace
For the second time in 10 days, Nola no-hit the Mets through five innings. The no-no was broken up with one out in the sixth on Pete Alonso's two-run homer, his 30th of the season.
Nola's last four starts have looked like this: 29⅔ innings, 14 hits, 2 earned runs, 8 walks, 34 strikeouts.
In just those four starts, he has lowered his season ERA from 4.89 to 3.74.
Nola is 8-2 and the Phillies are 12-7 in his starts.
Early offense aplenty
For the second time in four games, the Phillies scored four runs in the first inning. This time, they hung on to win.
They began the afternoon with five hits in their first six at-bats against Zack Wheeler, who is typically a tough customer and did settle in to retire nine in a row in innings 3-5.
Rhys Hoskins blooped a ball to right-center where there was no outfielder to drive in the first run with a double. J.T. Realmuto followed with a two-run double down the line and Jay Bruce added an RBI knock.
Nola had a four-run lead before even taking the mound, which sure looked like enough given how well he's pitched the last three weeks.
Bruce continues to rake
Bruce later added a two-run homer and a solo shot, giving him 10 home runs as a Phillie and 24 overall this season.
He's homered once every 10.3 at-bats as a Phillie and is slugging .641.
Hoskins added a solo shot in the ninth inning, his 20th of the season.
Gabe Kapler said two weeks ago that Bryce Harper plays harder than any superstar he's ever been around, and most who have followed the Phillies this season can understand why. Whether it's leaving his feet in the field, taking extra bases or wanting to play every inning of every game, Harper's approach to his craft is the kind Philadelphia fans love. In that way specifically, he could not have ingratiated himself more to the fan base in this first half.
But the aggressiveness has hurt the Phillies at times, too. Harper was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double in the second inning Sunday. It was the eighth time this season he has been thrown out on the basepaths, tied for most in the majors. (This does not include times he was caught stealing.)
Still, it would be inaccurate to point to those eight outs and determine Harper has been a negative on the bases. He has added a handful of doubles by busting it out of the box, and he's taken at least two bases 35 percent of the time that he's been on first or second and a single has been hit.
It's the All-Star break. The Phillies resume play on Friday against the Nationals.
Coming out of the break they have three at home with the Nats and four at home against the Dodgers. Not an easy task, especially considering the Nationals can use all three of their top starters in that series.
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