Aaron Nola tosses a gem to lift Phillies to big win over Red Sox
Aaron Nola did exactly what a big game pitcher is supposed to do during a playoff push. He tossed seven solid frames while surrendering just two runs on four hits to carry the Phillies to a much needed 3-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night at Fenway Park.

The Phils’ bats jumped on Red Sox starter Brian Johnson in the opening frame, sending eight batters to the plate with Jean Segura collecting the highlight of the inning with a two-run double. Scott Kingery chipped in two batters later with an RBI-single. From there though, the bats cooled off and the Phillies failed to have a baserunner reach beyond second base.

Luckily, it didn’t matter.

Nola surrendered a two-run homer to Jackie Bradley Jr. in the third and wiggled his way out of some danger in the sixth after surrendering a leadoff single and walk. He threw 104 pitches – 71 for strikes - and was every bit of clutch that he needed to be. He walked one and struck out seven.

Jose Alvarez and Mike Morin combined to toss a scoreless eighth and Hector Neris closed things out in the ninth to record his 22nd save of the season.

The story of the night though was Nola.

"I think he's able to mix three plus pitches -- there aren't many starting in baseball that are able to do that -- and then command all three of them," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "I think it's the preparation between the starts that is unparalleled. I think it's as competitive a package as there is out there."

Over his last 12 starts he’s posted a 2.12 ERA and he’s been one of baseball’s best starting pitchers dating back to mid-June.

What's behind the success?

"Making quality pitches," Nola said. "Trying not to be too predictable and trying to get ahead. Getting ahead is the number one thing and get the leadoff hitter out. It really takes a lot of stress off the pitcher."

As Nola goes, so goes the Phillies and their odds of playing postseason baseball.

Recognizing this, manager Gabe Kapler mentioned before Tuesday’s contest that he’s planning on strictly using Nola every five days, meaning the off day on Thursday won’t act as an extra day of rest for Nola and he’ll start on Sunday in Miami.

Assuming the schedule holds true with no postponements, this means Nola could potentially make eight more starts this season, including a pair against the Mets and one against the Nationals, two teams intertwined with the Phillies in the Wild Card chase.

First though, the Phillies will need to take care of business on Wednesday as the series in Boston concludes. Drew Smyly will toe the rubber for the Phils, opposing Rick Porcello.
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

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