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Aaron Nola vs. Austin Nola was fun for the brothers but tough to watch for the parents

"I had no emotion," A.J. Nola said after son Austin ignited a rally against Aaron in a five-run fifth inning.

A TV monitor shows Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola pitching to his brother, Padres catcher Austin, in the fifth inning.
A TV monitor shows Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola pitching to his brother, Padres catcher Austin, in the fifth inning.Read moreJose F. Moreno / Staff Photographer

SAN DIEGO — A.J. Nola didn’t know Wednesday afternoon how to react. His sons — Aaron and Austin — were the first brothers to match up as a pitcher and hitter in a postseason game. And now one was standing on first base after an RBI single and one was on the mound as a rally began to build.

“I had no emotion,” said A.J. Nola after staring blankly at the field while everyone around him cheered in the fifth inning of the Phillies’ 8-5 loss to the Padres in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. “I’m going to get kicked in the leg all night by my wife like ‘Why didn’t you clap?’”

» READ MORE: Phillies’ Aaron Nola inspired by the long road his brother Austin traveled to the major leagues

The Nola’s father said “words can’t describe how difficult it was” to watch his two sons face off at Petco Park. The winner of the seven-game series is headed to the World Series while the loser heads home. They are the first brothers to meet in a league championship series since 1997, which Austin Nola — San Diego’s starting catcher — said provided his family no playbook for how to handle the situation.

It was stressful for their parents, but Austin Nola said the brothers had fun.

“It’s special,” said Austin Nola, whose two-strike single off his brother drove in the first run in San Diego’s five-run fifth inning. “It’s a family thing and we’re enjoying it. This doesn’t happen a lot. We’re going to have fun. It’s competitive, right? That’s how it’s always been. Nothing has changed. I’m sure we’ll talk about this 20 years from now when we’re sitting together at Christmas time. We’ll be talking about these moments.

“The first time I ever faced him I wish I could’ve taken a snapshot and held the moment for like a day. That’s how fun it is. And I’m sure he would say the same thing. Stepping in the box against your brother in a big-league game is enough for me to just say ‘I wish I could press pause and live it for much longer.’ It happens really quick.”

The baseball coach at Catholic High School, the Baton Rouge, La., school where both brothers played, sent A.J. Nola a picture during the game of the school’s baseball team gathered in the locker room watching the Nolas.

» READ MORE: Looking back on the first and only time Aaron and Austin Nola played on the same team

The brothers didn’t play together there — Aaron was a freshman when his brother was a senior — but they did face each other once during a practice when the coach brought the younger Nola to throw against hitters.

“First time I ever faced him in my life,” Austin Nola said. “Coach brought him in to face me and three other hitters. That was the first time I realized how good he was. He threw me a fastball and pretty much broke my bat. That was the start of ‘Man, he’s pretty good.’ He struck the next two guys out.”

The brothers faced each other in each of the last two seasons but this was different. Austin Nola said he had empathy when he stepped to the plate last summer against his younger brother. It felt surreal, he said, as they used to play Wiffle Ball and dream about playing in the majors.

But there’s no room for those feelings in October. Austin Nola grounded out in the second inning before getting his revenge three innings later. After three more batters, his younger brother was out of the game and the Phillies’ four-run lead was erased.

“I think it was understood between both of us that we’re going all out,” Austin Nola said. “There’s no empathy here. There’s no ‘I hope you do well.’ I hope you do well next year. We want to win. We both want to be the team player and help our team win. That’s just how it goes. When you step in the box and step on the mound, you have to be there to win. It’s all out.”

“I want to beat him,” Aaron Nola said. “I want to go to the next round and let him go home, but it’s definitely cool.”

» READ MORE: Aaron and Austin Nola’s mom prepares for a nerve-racking NLCS

Austin Nola has a young son, allowing him to imagine how his parents felt even though he and his brother said it was fun. But it is what it is, he said with a laugh. Last Christmas, Austin Nola gave his younger brother the ball he hit off him four months earlier. He said he has more gifts planned for this year.

First, the Nolas will fly to Philadelphia as the series continues. A.J. Nola said his family will get together on Thursday night before the postseason resumes on Friday. By next week, one Nola will be in the World Series and the other will be watching like mom and dad.

“May the best Nola win,” Stacie Nola said.