WASHINGTON — Aaron Nola has done enough.
In 34 starts this season, the Phillies ace topped 200 innings for a second year in a row and achieved a career high with 229 strikeouts. And so, with the Phillies out of playoff contention, Nola won’t start Sunday, as scheduled, in the season finale against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.
“This is the best decision for Aaron and for the Phillies long-term,” manager Gabe Kapler said Thursday at Nationals Park before the Phillies wrapped up an 11-game, 10-day road trip. “We asked him to go every five days down the stretch, which he did. He worked incredibly hard. He will finish the year strong, healthy, and ready to head into 2020.”
The Phillies haven’t announced a starter for Sunday. One possibility: rookie lefty Cole Irvin, assuming he isn’t needed in the bullpen Friday. Another option: Use a group of relievers, a la the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader in Washington.
Nola recovered from a poor start and had a solid follow-up to his Cy Young Award-worthy season in 2018. After posting a 6.84 ERA through his first five starts, Nola pitched to a 3.45 mark since April 25. Overall, he notched a 3.87 ERA.
The Phillies decided last month to ride Nola hard down the stretch. Whereas they used days off in the schedule to give their other starters additional rest, they kept Nola on an every-fifth-day schedule to maximize his starts.
Although the strategy made sense, it didn’t work. Nola posted a 5.27 ERA in his final seven starts, and the Phillies went 0-7 in those games.
In addition to being among the 10 pitchers so far this season to reach 200 innings, Nola is one of only five to do so in back-to-back years, joining Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Jacob deGrom, and Gerrit Cole.
“I obviously had an up-and-down year, especially the first part of the season,” Nola said. “I feel like I had some stretches where I felt pretty good.”
Shortstop Jean Segura left Thursday’s 6-3 loss in the fifth inning after aggravating a sprained right ankle while fielding a grounder by Trea Turner and subsequently running to first base in his next at-bat. His status for the final three games of the season is unclear.
“What I can say is that he was playing with a little bit of a swollen ankle. He has been for some time,” Kapler said. “He attacked that ball that Turner hit with intensity, like the game was on the line right there. He made an outstanding play. He gave us everything he had. He went back up to the plate and hit a ground ball. He ran down to first base and didn’t feel great.”