Nola strikes out career-high eight batters

Phillies starter lives up to expectations in first start of 2016

Nola strikes out career-high eight batters

CINCINNATI -- It is easier to trust the process with the way Aaron Nola pitched Wednesday night at Great American Ball Park.

The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick in the first round of the 2014 Draft. He moved quickly to the big leagues and once he arrived he impressed, posting a 3.59 ERA in 13 starts last season. He entered 2016 expected to take another step forward and cement his status as a key piece of the Phillies' rotation.

Nola did not disappoint Wednesday night in a 3-2 loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park. He allowed four hits and one run and struck out a career-high eight in seven innings.

"I kept thinking he threw too many strikes, but he just pinpoints that fastball and it is tough to square up," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.

Nola, who would have been 1-0 if Dalier Hinojosa had not blown a one-run lead in the ninth, allowed a solo home run to Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez with one out in the first inning, but retired 13 of the next 14 batters he faced.

Bullpen's growing pains evident in first series

"I felt like I had command of all of my pitches," Nola said. "I was getting ahead of a lot of guys, which really made a difference." 

Nola's effectiveness against left-handers also made a difference. They were 2-for-13 with six strikeouts against him, which is a nice turnaround for him. Left-handers hit .310 with an .834 OPS against Nola last season, while right-handers hit .212 with a .618 OPS.

"I was commanding the ball inside," he said about his success against the lefties. "I feel like that was a big part of having success tonight against lefties."

The Phillies hope for more starts like this from Nola and fellow youngsters Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez. If those three develop as hoped, they could become the core of a rotation they hope one day rivals the Mets' starters.

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.