PHILADELPHIA -- Aaron Nola provided the Phillies and their fans a much needed feeling of hope Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
Nola, who is the No. 28 prospect in baseball according to MLBPipeline.com, made a memorable debut in the midst of a forgettable season in a 1-0 loss to the Rays. He allowed five hits, one run, one walk and struck out six in six innings. He threw 89 pitches (57 strikes), throwing his fastball, curveball and changeup for strikes. He singled to center field in the fifth inning, one of only four hits for the Phillies.
Nola, whose fastball hit 94 mph, looked composed from the moment he stepped onto the mound to the moment he left.
He looked like he belonged.
"From the stint he had in Spring Training to the past 24 hours he has been here, he has shown a lot of poise," Phillies ace Cole Hamels said afterward. "That's good to see. You know that is somebody you want to call a teammate. You know that is somebody you're going to have faith in when the game is on the line, especially when you're in pennant races and getting to postseasons. He seems like that type of big-game pitcher.
"It's something you can learn, but it's very difficult to learn. So if you already have it, you're already on your way. You're accelerating yourself to be in a good position in the big leagues."
The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick of the 2014 Draft with the belief he would join the big league rotation before the end of 2015. He lived up to the hype through his quick rise through the Phillies' farm system.
It is why the Phillies sold 8,500 tickets since Friday, when they announced Nola would make his big league debut Tuesday. They sold 4,000 tickets Tuesday, making the announced crowd of 28,703 their largest weeknight crowd on a non-fireworks night since May 14.
Fans wanted to see a reason to believe in the future.
"He was terrific," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He did a great job. He showed a lot of poise."
"He was poised," interim manager Pete Mackanin echoed. "He had a good mound presence. He didn't look scared."
Nola allowed a leadoff double to John Jaso in the first inning, but struck out Steven Souza Jr. and Evan Longoria before getting James Loney to ground out to end the first inning. Nola's only mishap came in the third inning, when Rays pitcher Nathan Karns hit a solo home run to left field on a first-pitch fastball.
"It was pretty awesome to be out there to feel the energy from the fans," Nola said. "To pitch at this level is pretty amazing and a pretty good feeling tonight. I had a little bit of jitters in the first inning. But once I threw a few pitches, they were gone."
Nola's next start is Sunday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. While there will be ups and down along the way, the Phillies hope Tuesday was a glimpse of what could be in a few years if J.P. Crawford, Zach Eflin, Roman Quinn, Cornelius Randolph, Andrew Knapp and others develop like the organization hopes.
"I feel like we're just going out and doing our job and playing to the best of our ability," Nola said, when asked about the fact he represents the organization's future. "There's a lot of other great guys on the team that are there doing their job, too. We're trying to win."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.