I’m not going to lie. I only went to last night’s Philadelphia Phillies game because the ticket deal the team was promoting was halfway decent. The promotion was two tickets for $27 in honor of 2014 first round pick Aaron Nola‘s debut, since he would be wearing the number twenty-seven. I was up in the 400 section right behind home plate with a beautiful view of all the action and a stadium littered with freshly purchased Nola jerseys. Or in the case of the man I was sitting behind, an old Placido Polanco jersey with masking tape replacing the “Polanco” with “Nola” written in black Sharpie.
The cheers for the 22-year-old Baton Rouge native on his first pitch were ear-piercing. That would probably have something to do with the fact that he threw a strike right down the middle of the plate. The at bat then turned into a lead-off double for John Jaso, which admittedly had me worried that I was about to witness a complete blowout.
The fans never gave up hope and Nola turned the situation around and struck out Steven Souza Jr., who would strike out two more times, and Evan Longoria went down swinging before James Loney dribbled out to Ryan Howard.
Over the next few innings, Nola would give up only four more hits and a walk. One of those hits would be a solo shot to left-center by the opposing pitcher of all people, Nate Karns. With that home run in the top of the third, Karns became the sixth American League pitcher since 1962 to hit a solo home run in a 1-0 game. Now that’s just bad luck.
As Nola’s outing was winding down, the rain started to fall and the wind started to pick up speed. But nothing was stopping him from having a nice Major League debut. The remaining fans continued to cheer Nola on as he regained his command and finished out his six innings.
The bullpen held down the last three innings for Nola. But in classic Phillies fashion, the offense gave him no run support. Seven men would reach base, only to be left high and dry. Nola himself even helped his own cause with a one-out single in the bottom of the fifth, only for Odubel Herrera to ground out into a double play.
If the rest of Nola’s season is anything like last night, the fans will have something to look forward to every fifth day, aside from Cole Hamels. Though most scouts project Nola to be a middle of the rotation guy for the majority of his career, he is definitely a bright spot in the Phillies upcoming future. It was exciting to see him, and the young guys like Cesar Hernandez and Herrera get some playing time. The third baseman and Phillies phenom, Maikel Franco was definitely missed this evening. Especially since he seems to be only Phillie hitting as of late. Nola could have used his production.
Overall, the evening was entertaining. Nola’s debut attracted about 10,000 more fans than the average home game and the crowd was pumped up for the first time in a while. They barely even booed Domonic Brown, who collected half of the team’s hits last night. I missed the enthusiasm at Citizens Bank Park. Hopefully, Ruben Amaro Jr. can make some deals at the trade deadline and propel the team to a better future where the fans can hear those cheers once more.