Aaron Nola had exhausted 100 pitches through six innings, a surefire sign that his night was finished.
But then the Phillies finally chased Washington starter Patrick Corbin, scored two runs against the Nationals bullpen, and rallied to take the lead in the seventh inning of a 3-2 win at Nationals Park. If there was a night for Joe Girardi to ride Nola into deep water, it was Wednesday. So he did.
Nola returned for the seventh inning, threw 13 pitches to retire three batters, and shortened the workload on the bullpen after it pieced together four innings Tuesday night. The final pitch he threw — his 113th of the night — was a signature curveball for a swinging strike against Trea Turner, Nola’s eighth strikeout of the night.
“Honestly, I didn’t know how many pitches I was at,” Nola said. “I was just trying to get ahead of hitters and keep our guys right there. Just trying to get a 1-2-3 inning. It was kind of a grind the whole game for me, honestly.”
Girardi leaned on the ace of his staff to capture a win on the road against the reigning world champions. The Phillies went to D.C. after slogging through a five-game losing streak and spending the previous eight days on the road. They knew they would face Corbin and Max Scherzer, two of baseball’s premier pitches, but they left Wednesday night with a series win, thanks to their own premier arm.
Nola allowed two runs on five hits in his seven innings, rebounding from a rough start Friday in Atlanta. He has allowed three runs or less in four of his last five starts. Juan Soto homered in the second inning, and Howie Kendrick beat the shift in the fourth with an RBI single that was nearly a double play. Nola kept the Phillies in it until they scored twice in the seventh.
The win gave Joe Girardi his 1,000th career win, which ties him with Charlie Manuel for the 64th-most managerial wins in baseball history. Girardi, who has managed 1,808 games, is the 16th-fastest manager in major-league history to reach 1,000 wins.
“It means I’ve been really blessed and fortunate to be in the game for a long time,” Girardi said. “I’ve been around a lot of great players, great organizations who have given me an opportunity to do this. Great coaching staffs. Just everywhere I’ve been, I’ve had great coaches assembled around me. [Bench coach] Rob Thomson has been with me almost the whole way, all but one year. I’m so thankful for what he’s done for my career and what he does on an everyday basis and all the coaches what they’ve done. I’ve been blessed.”
Girardi had to sweat out his milestone victory after Brandon Workman allowed a leadoff double in the ninth. But the team’s recent bullpen acquisition escaped by striking out Victor Robles with the tying run on third base.
J.T. Realmuto secured the ball for Girardi, the players gave him a bottle of champagne, and Bryce Harper toasted the manager with a clubhouse speech. Girardi said it brought a tear to his eye.
“I think my favorite thing is to watch players have success. That’s my favorite thing to do,” Girardi said. “You get a firsthand experience as a manager to do that.”
The game was played as the sports world responded to the Sunday shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wis. Earlier in the day, the NBA postponed three playoff games after Milwaukee and Orlando staged a boycott.
The Brewers and Reds postponed their game in Milwaukee, 40 miles north of Kenosha. The Padres and Mariners postponed their game in San Diego, and the Giants and Dodgers opted against playing in San Francisco. Several players, including Jayson Heyward of the Cubs and Dexter Fowler and Jack Flaherty of the Cardinals, sat out in protest.
“We as a team, the Milwaukee Brewers, unanimously decided today to not play our baseball game due to continued issues that we’ve seen with racial injustice and social oppression,” Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun said. “Obviously, with what happened in Kenosha, it hits close to home. It’s something that continues to be deeply disturbing and disheartening to all of us. We had a team meeting, and as a group, we continue to have conversations about what we can do and how we can use our platform to continue to try to elicit change as we recognize that there are still significant issues in our country.”
“We made the decision today that the most-impactful thing we can do is not play our baseball game, to not distract from what’s going on in the country. We felt that baseball was insignificant relative to the issues that we all continue to see and that we are disturbed by.”
Major League Baseball said in a statement that it “respects the decisions of a number of players not to play tonight” and “remains united for change in our society, and we will be allies in the fight to end racism and injustice.”
Girardi said he did not know whether the Phillies had discussed not playing but would support them if they chose to protest.
“I would tell them to go with their heart,” Girardi said. “Feelings are feelings. They’re never right or wrong. They’re just feelings. You have to go with your heart and what your heart tells you. I would support them with whatever they did.”
By the time Nola threw his 100th pitch, the Phillies had scored just one run. Rhys Hoskins homered in the third inning for his third home run in the last nine games. Didi Gregorius tripled in the seventh, which prompted Nationals manager Davey Martinez to lift Corbin. Alec Bohm greeted reliever Will Harris with a single to right field for his sixth RBI in 12 games since being promoted, as the rookie continues to look comfortable at the plate.
Roman Quinn bunted as a pinch hitter, but Bohm was out at second. Andrew McCutchen then lifted a fly ball to right-center field for what seemed like the inning’s second out, but Robles and Adam Eaton both tried to catch it, and the ball dropped. Two batters later, Bryce Harper brought in Quinn with a two-out single. The Phillies had the lead, and their ace had 100 pitches. But he wasn’t done yet.
“Everybody knows Joe, his resume, he’s been in this game a long time,” Nola said. “It’s a milestone, a pretty good accomplishment. We’re happy for him. I’m glad I got to play under him. He’s a great manager, a great person and I’m looking forward to staying with him for a while.”