Phillies implodes after Aaron Nola labors through 5 innings in 9-5 loss to Braves

Making his first start in a week, Nola had trouble finishing off innings before Connor Brogdon and Sam Coonrod combined to give up five runs in the eighth.

Aaron Nola doesn’t usually go more than four or five days between starts, even when the schedule allows for extra rest. So when the Phillies decided last week to give him a six-day breather and Zach Eflin a nine-day respite, it sparked curiosity about the starters’ health, especially coming off a 2020 season that was only 60 games long.

“The immediate concern is not great,” manager Joe Girardi said last Friday. “But as they continue to add to that inning total, we had some concerns.”

Nola’s uneven performance Tuesday night won’t do much to alleviate them.

To be fair, it wasn’t Nola who coughed up a one-run lead in the eighth inning of the Phillies’ 9-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves before another intimate gathering of 13,125 at fully reopened Citizens Bank Park. Lay that on Connor Brogdon and Sam Coonrod, who combined to allow five runs in a late-game implosion that was reminiscent of the bad, old days of 2020 when fans weren’t allowed in the ballpark.

But Nola didn’t look like himself in an 89-pitch, five-inning slog. He had trouble finishing off innings, allowing a costly two-out walk in the first and a two-out home run in the fourth. Shutdown innings were elusive, too. He gave up runs in the fourth and fifth innings after the Phillies had just scored.

Most concerning, though, especially after a week off, was that Nola failed to complete seven innings for the eighth consecutive start, leaving the bullpen to get 12 outs, nine after the Phillies finally took the lead.

The Phillies have come to expect better from him.

“Felt fine,” Nola said. “Just missed some spots, and they scattered some hits, a couple solo home runs. Another tough outing for me. Tough game.”