Aaron Nola pitched seven shutout innings and Cesar Hernandez had a two-run single in the seventh inning to help the Philadelphia Phillies snap a nine-game losing streak with a 3-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Saturday night.
Nola (17-6) was stellar in his final start of the season, allowing two hits and striking out eight with four walks. The right-hander ended 2018 with a 2.37 ERA and 234 strikeouts in 212 1/3 innings. He likely will fall short of a NL Cy Young award after stumbling a bit in September. Nola entered 1-3 with a 4.60 ERA and nine home runs allowed in September before returning to the form his displayed for most of the season on Saturday.
The NL East champion Braves will play either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Colorado Rockies in the NLDS, and Atlanta still could host the series. The Braves (90-71) and Dodgers have the same record entering the regular-season finale on Sunday while Colorado entered Saturday with a 90-70 mark.
Nola allowed only Ronald Acuna Jr.’s single to lead off the game and Nick Markakis’ single to start the fourth. The closest the Braves came to scoring was in the second inning when Nola walked the first two batters. But the right-hander got Kurt Suzuki to line out, struck out Ozzie Albies then intentionally walked Charlie Culberson to load the bases before finally striking out starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez.
Sanchez matched Nola, giving up three hits with seven strikeouts and three walks in six shutout innings.
With one out and two runners on in the seventh, manager Gabe Kapler chose to pinch-hit for Nola. Jonny Venters (5-2) intentionally walked pinch-hitter Wilson Ramos to load the bases before Hernandez hit a sharp liner under shortstop Culberson’s glove into left field that scored two. Odubel Herrera helped the Phillies take a 3-0 lead when he beat out a potential double-play grounder to short.
Seranthony Dominguez pitched a scoreless ninth for his 15th save in 19 chances.
The victory was Philadelphia’s first since Sept. 19. The Phillies’ slide started with a four-game sweep at Atlanta last weekend when they still were mathematically alive in the playoff race. The Phillies were outscored 70-21 during the losing streak that capped a late-season collapse. Philadelphia went from 15 games over .500 and 1 ½ games in front of Atlanta for first place on Aug. 7 to four games under .500 and 12 games back of the Braves on Sept. 28.
Phillies: C Jorge Alfaro (quad) was replaced by Andrew Knapp at the start of the third inning.
Braves RHP Kevin Gausman (10-10, 3.93) opposes Phillies LHP Ranger Suarez (1-1, 6.00) on Sunday afternoon in the regular-season finale.
Source: The Associated Press