MIAMI (AP) — Rookie Aaron Nola learns fast, which has accelerated the Philadelphia Phillies’ second-half surge.
Bouncing back from an erratic outing, Nola pitched a career-high eight innings and allowed only one runner to advance beyond first base, helping the Phillies beat the Miami Marlins 2-0 to tighten the race for next year’s top draft pick.
Nola (4-1) allowed three hits, walked two and struck out six. It was a vast improvement on his start five days earlier against Toronto, when he gave up a career-high four walks.
“You just want to pound the zone and stay ahead,” Nola said. “Getting behind big-league hitters, it’s tough to come back and then you have to make that perfect pitch. That’s one thing I’ve learned — once you start getting yourself in jams and walking guys like I did against Toronto, bad things will happen.”
By winning the final three games in the four-game series, the Phillies moved into a tie with Miami for the worst record in the majors (50-74). Philadelphia is 21-12 since the All-Star break.
Nola has played a significant role. The Phillies’ 2014 first-round draft choice is 4-0 in his past six starts, and his ERA is down to 3.59.
The Marlins managed only three singles off the right-hander.
“We just couldn’t figure out Nola. He pitched a heck of a game,” manager Dan Jennings said. “He’s got a good breaking ball he commands, and he commanded it all day — a wide sweeping breaking ball.”
Nola threw a career-high 100 pitches, and Phils interim manager Pete Mackanin debated whether to send him to the mound in the ninth.
“I thought about letting him go out for the shutout,” Mackanin said. “But his pitch count was right on the verge, and there’s no need to do it right now. I didn’t want anything to screw up a great outing like that.”
Nola, who has benefited from excellent run support since he joined the Phils, this time made do with only a little help. Catcher Cameron Rupp hit his fifth home run and threw out two runners trying to steal. Aaron Altherr drove in the other run with a sacrifice fly.
Ken Giles pitched a perfect ninth for his 10th save in 13 chances, completing the Phillies’ fifth shutout this year.
“We’re having fun playing,” Rupp said. “We’re loose and everybody’s playing well, and that makes it a lot easier to come to the ballpark.”
Marlins rookie Adam Conley (1-1) allowed one run while pitching a career-high six innings. He walked four, but the Phillies went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position against him.
Conley retired the last seven batters he faced.
“Today started out pretty rough, but I was able to find some momentum toward the end,” he said.
Miami’s Dee Gordon, who came into the game leading the majors in batting and hits, went 1 for 4 to drop his average to .335.
With the Phils facing a left-handed starter, Ryan Howard was held out of the lineup, the fourth consecutive time he has been benched against a lefty.
The game drew a crowd of 22,693 on Dontrelle Willis and Juan Pierre Day to honor two members of the Marlins’ 2003 World Series championship team. Among those not attending was Willis, who canceled because of a conflict.
The Phillies open a four-game series at home Monday against the Mets, with LHP Adam Morgan (4-4, 3.92) scheduled to face RHP Jacob deGrom (12-6, 1.98).
RHP Tom Koehler (8-11, 4.02) is scheduled to start Monday for the Marlins when they open a four-game series at home against Pittsburgh and LHP J.A. Happ (1-1, 2.87). The Pirates swept an earlier three-game set between the two teams.
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