Phillies' struggling bullpen took attention away from Aaron Nola, home runs

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The focus Monday night should have been on Aaron Nola’s second brilliant performance in a row, paired with a smorgasbord of home runs by the Phillies. 

While Nola and the Phils’ power were duly noted, the first question manager Joe Girardi received after a 13-8 victory over the Atlanta Braves was about pulling Nola after eight innings and going to a bullpen that’s been brutal. 

“Aaron did not want to come out, but sometimes I feel that it’s my job to protect players from themselves,” he said.

"Sometimes I feel that it's my job to protect players from themselves."Joe Girardi explains why he decided to pull Aaron Nola.

— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) August 11, 2020

Despite leading by 12 runs, Girardi chose not to send Nola back out for the ninth inning — which would’ve been a first in the 27-year-old’s big league career. Nola allowed only two hits and one run, while striking out 10 on 89 pitches. 

He was dealing. 

Still, Girardi pointed to the injuries that have taken place since the season began. Because eight innings was the longest Nola had gone in his three starts this season, Girardi didn’t feel it was worth it.  

“And I feel bad pulling him, and I told him and I understand if he’s upset with me,” he admitted. “I’m OK with that. But, the prize is not in the month of August.” 

Nola wanted to go the distance. If the ballpark had spectators, there’s no question that they would have booed at Girardi’s decision to put Nick Pivetta in the game for Nola. 

In fact, the loyal group of fans who have been watching from outside the ballpark — dubbed the Phandemic Krew — started chanting, “We want Nola.” 

“Would you be all right to just maybe, this half-inning, just take it by yourself (so I can) go out and join the Phandemic Krew and holler ‘We want Nola,’ ” broadcaster and former Phillies pitcher Larry Andersen quipped to Scott Franzke on the Phillies Radio Network.

In all seriousness, though, Andersen said Girardi pulling Nola was a “travesty.” 

Nola understood Girardi’s decision, but he still wanted a chance to go the full nine. 

“I feel like it is a little bit different conversation if it was a close game,” Nola said. “I could see myself going out for sure if it was a close game. And maybe there will be another chance for that.” 

While Nola was excellent, the Phillies bats woke up from that long slumber they were in during Sunday’s doubleheader losses to Atlanta. 

The Phils hit five home runs Monday night, and technically the “home-run cycle.” Bryce Harper started the scoring with a three-run blast in the first. 

BRYCE BOMB!Harper sends this one to the Braves' bullpen and the Phillies get the early lead, 3-0.

— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) August 10, 2020

Roman Quinn hit his first of the season — a solo homer in the second. 

And another!Roman Quinn adds one more to the board with this solo shot out to left. Phils are up, 4-1.

— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) August 10, 2020

Later that inning, Didi Gregorius hit a grand slam, followed by Jean Segura’s solo home run. 

And Jean Segura with a homer of his own!10-1, Phillies.

— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) August 10, 2020

And then in the fourth, J.T. Realmuto hit his team-leading fifth of the season, a two-run shot to make the score 12-1. 

Pivetta — who didn’t make the Phillies rotation out of camp and is someone you wouldn’t expect to be in a 13-1 mop-up situation — got lit up for six runs through seven batters while recording only one out. 

In the ninth inning, Trevor Kelley, who relieved Pivetta, was charged one run before finishing the game. And, closer Héctor Neris had to get loose because of the Pivetta and Kelley struggle. 

Through 11 games, the bullpen has allowed 34 runs in 31 innings. 

Not good. 

“I’m frustrated for the guys that gave up the runs because we want them to contribute and we wanna get them going, but it does dampen that we won the game, that Aaron pitched great and we swung the bats extremely well,” Girardi said. 

It might not have “dampened” the bottom line of a victory, but it took attention away from Nola and the home-run derby the Phils put on display. ​