The Philadelphia Phillies came up two games short of capturing a World Series title in 2022, falling to the Houston Astros in six games.
This year, they are back to finish what they started.
After ousting their divisional rivals, the 104-win Atlanta Braves, in the NLDS, all that stands in Philly’s path back to the World Series are the Arizona Diamondbacks, the National League’s No. 6 seed who hadn’t lost this postseason until Monday in Game 1 against the Phillies.
Game 2 begins Tuesday at 8:07 p.m. ET, and taking the mound for Philadelphia will be nine-year veteran pitcher Aaron Nola. He has already played a significant role in helping Philadelphia reach the NLCS, as he won his first postseason game of the year in the wild-card round on Oct. 4 against the Miami Marlins, and then won again against the Braves on Oct. 11.
Aaron. Nola. pic.twitter.com/03qLImuNvH
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) October 5, 2023
During the regular season, Nola was a crucial part of a pitching rotation that helped Philadelphia to a 90-72 record. He led all Phillies in innings pitched (193.2), was second in strikeouts (202) and third in wins (12).
The 30-year-old Nola has been with the Phillies’ organization ever since he was drafted No. 7 overall in 2014. He made his debut in the majors the following season and has never looked back, even becoming an All-Star in 2018 and being named to the All-MLB second team last year.
Nola has certainly built quite a career in Philadelphia. Lasting success in baseball is tough, and Nola would be the first to say that it’s God who’s sustained him, not himself. Yet it wasn’t until a rough patch at the beginning of the 2019 season that Nola found peace in that truth.
He was coming off of his All-Star appearance, in the first year of a lucrative new four-year contract, but his ERA had ballooned higher than it’d ever been. Baseball culture is rife with superstitions, and Nola approached the game no differently. Seemingly, no matter what routines he adjusted, he couldn’t catch a break. It was confusing and tiresome.
Eventually, it dawned on him that the endless routines weren’t what got him to the major leagues. Ultimately, it was God. The revelation came as a welcome relief for Nola.
“When I did that, things started to turn around,” Nola told the Philadelphia Enquirer in April 2022. “Things started to be a little bit more at peace. … When you have superstitions like I did, when things go bad, you have to find something else to be superstitious about. Then, the next time, something else. And keep searching. But with faith, you go to One thing and One thing only.”
Nola ended the 2019 season with a 12-7 record in a career-high 34 games started. Before each one, and in all the starts in the years following, he’s been sure to pray before every game.
“Through Bible studies and chapels, I learned who Jesus is and what He could do and to put all my trust and all my faith in Him,” Nola said in 2020 during an interview with the Phillies team chaplain Jeff Boettcher. “… He has a reason for everything, and we should always put our trust in Him with that, because He knows where our path is going — He makes it — and the outcome is in His hands.”
He continued later: “There are things that are going to happen to us that we don’t like, that we don’t expect and that are unexpected, and we shouldn’t ask too many questions why. Because He knows why, and He knows where we’re gonna go, and He knows what His plan is for us.”
Nola knows that, no matter what happens on Tuesday night or in the rest of the series, God is worthy of all honor, praise and trust. That is a truth he can rest in.
After a day off for both teams on Wednesday to travel to Phoenix, Game 3 of the seven-game NLCS between the Phillies and Diamondbacks will be Thursday starting at 5:07 p.m. ET.
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