PHILADELPHIA -- Aaron Nola finally looked like himself again Monday night at Citizens Bank Park.
He allowed two hits, one walk and struck out five in six scoreless innings in a 3-2 loss in 11 innings to the Marlins. He threw just 68 pitches with the trademark command that made him the seventh overall pick in the 2014 Draft.
"He was back to being himself," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp said.
Nola's return to form is a relief for the Phillies, who watched him post a 13.50 ERA in his previous five starts. He struggled so much in that stretch -- he pitched five innings just once -- that the Phillies skipped his final start before the All-Star break, saying he needed to rest and clear his mind. Nola disputed the notion he needed a mental break, believing he simply had to improve the location of his pitches, keeping the ball down in the strike zone.
"It was a tough month for me," Nola said afterward. "Those two weeks off felt like a really long time, and I was ready to get back on the mound."
He immediately looked different than he had in the previous month, retiring the Marlins in order in the first inning. Nola entered the game with a 7.94 ERA in the first inning this season. He had not pitched a clean first inning since May 25 against the Tigers.
"He pitched really well," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He was painting both sides of the plate. He had his fastball working on both corners, down in the zone."
"He was confident," Rupp said. "He probably had a little fatigue [in June], just his first full big league season. He's 23 years old. He's young. He was seven, eight innings almost every start. His innings built up quick, and he probably just ran out of juice a little bit."
But feeling refreshed, Nola faced the minimum through 5 1/3 innings when Adeiny Hechavarria ripped a line drive off Nola's right shoulder.
Nola remained in the game and finished the inning. He said the arm feels fine.
"I didn't want that thing to tighten up on him," Mackanin said. "He said he was fine. It was two-fold. I didn't want that thing to tighten up between innings and take any chances. Plus, getting him out on a positive note like that was important."
Of course, the next step for Nola is stringing a few solid starts together. He certainly is capable of that. He posted a 2.65 ERA in his first 12 starts this season.
"He made a lot of great pitches," Mackanin said. "It was great to see. Very encouraging. I was happy to see it."
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. 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.