Phillies Rebound Behind Nola, Notch Majors-best Sixth Shutout


ST. LOUIS – The day after his team's six-game winning streak ended in a good, ol'-fashioned butt-whipping at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals, Pete Mackanin returned to Busch Stadium with nothing but positive thoughts in his head.

"Perhaps we're still in the middle of a good run," he said three hours before the first pitch Tuesday night. "We'll see if we can rebound."

Well, the Phillies did just that. With Aaron Nola leading the way, they beat the Cardinals, 1-0 (see Instant Replay). Their 10th win in the last 12 games improved their season record to 16-11.

Ryan Howard, who grew up in the St. Louis suburbs and has always killed the team he watched as a kid, drove in the game's only run with a sixth-inning homer, his 22nd in 66 career games against the Cardinals.

But pitching – and a little bit of defense from former Cardinal Peter Bourjos – was the story of this game.

For the second straight game, Nola pitched two-hit ball over seven shutout innings. He walked one and struck out seven. His scoreless-innings streak stands at 20 over three games and his 0.83 WHIP (walks and hits per inning) is third-best among NL starters behind Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta, winners of the last two Cy Young Awards.

"It's awesome," the 22-year-old Nola said of being in that company. "Those guys are incredible."

Nola ain't bad, either.

"The guy is just a really good pitcher," Mackanin said. "You can't sit on one side of the plate because he's so good locating to both sides."

The Phillies entered the series on Monday night as baseball's surprise team with a six-game winning streak. The guys on ESPN gave the Phils a nice mention during the Sunday night game and USA Today showed up Monday to do a story on the Phils' hot start.

The Phils then went out on Monday night and were hammered, 10-3, by the Cardinals, who hit five homers in that game.

To the cynic, Monday night's loss was simply the Phillies coming back to where they were supposed to be, the land of low expectations.

To Nola, it was an opportunity.

"Any time a team puts up a lot of runs like they did last night, I always want to come out and try to shut them down, just get us back on track, get the momentum back to where we want it to be," Nola said. "I feel like we turned it around tonight."

The rebound thrilled Mackanin.

"The key to a good team is bouncing back," the manager said. "We bounced back from an 0-4 start. It was important for us as a team to bounce back from getting beat pretty bad last night."

Pitching has been the key to the Phillies' early success. They had seven shutouts all of last season. Now, they lead the majors with six. After Nola exited, Hector Neris, featuring his almost unhittable splitter, struck out the side in the eighth and Jeanmar Gomez notched his ninth save. They needed to be really good because St. Louis starter Michael Wacha was excellent. He allowed just the one run over eight innings and struck out eight.

"Nola, Neris and Gomez were outstanding," Mackanin said. "Nola can really pitch. Neris has an invisible pitch that nobody can see. Gomez – what can you say about him? He's been impeccable. So that was the equation to success today."

There was a little more to the equation. Howard's homer, for one. And Bourjos' defense. He made a terrific running catch toward the right-field corner to steal an extra-base hit away from Randal Grichuk and save a run in closing out the fourth inning.

Bourjos went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts and is hitting .169. But he earned his keep with that catch, just like he did Saturday night with a game-saver behind Gomez.

"Great catch," Mackanin said. "As much as he's struggling at the plate, he's helped us win four or five games with his defense and speed. He's really added to our outfield coverage."

Nola appreciated the assist Bourjos gave him.

"That was big, really big," Nola said. "I thanked him for it. I missed my spot with the pitch and Pete covered a lot ground."

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