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Aaron Nola falls apart, as Phillies start 2023 where they left off last season, with another disappointment at Texas sports

ARLINGTON, Texas — It started Thursday where it left off four months ago, give or take 250 miles. Yes, same state. Against an American League West team as well.

And the result?

Another disappointment.

Let’s be clear: On a scale from mildly disappointing to utterly heartbreaking, the Phillies’ 11-7 collapse to the Rangers on the 141st opening day in franchise history barely registered as a blip. Sure, it can take a while, especially with a day off on Friday. But before long, you’ll be blending in with the 161 games that are about to follow.

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The flashbacks were caused by both as happened like where. After former President George W. Bush delivered the ball for a ceremonial first pitch to the mound, where Nolan Ryan was standing, and a sellout crowd of 38,387 rose and chanted “Texas, Our Texas,” the Phillies took a 2-yard lead. 5-0. , ruining the Rangers debut of indomitable ace Jacob deGrom.

And then his own top-of-the-rotation starter blew it.

Aaron Nola, the clock perhaps ticking down in his time with the Phillies, continued to struggle to adjust to the new shot clock. He topped the Rangers’ order for three innings before they scored nine (count ’em, nine) runs in the fourth, five against Nola.

If that sounded familiar, it may have been because the Phillies’ last trip to Texas, 145 days earlier in Houston, culminated in a World Series loss they led after Game 3. But they were outscored 12-3 by the Astros in the last three games, 4-1 in the decisive Game 6.

It was the maximum loss per fall from the front.

Alec Bohm hits a two-run home run in the second inning.Yong Kim / Staff Photographer

This loss highlighted a potential problem for Nola, who spoke candidly all spring about the difficulty adjusting to throwing a pitch within 15 seconds with the bases empty and especially within 20 seconds with runners on.

“A lot of pitches, got behind guys, got (Corey) Seager on base to lead off the inning, which hurt a little bit,” Nola said, recapping the nightmare inning. “I left some balls on the plate. The change went up a bit. I’ll have to go back and see it. They made a couple of good pitches, but (Robbie) Grossman’s was medium high.”

The fourth inning was especially troubling because Nola didn’t allow a hit in the first three. But that all seemed to change once Seager hit a single to left field.

Nola has always been one of the slower-working Phillies pitchers. He also tended to be even more deliberate off the stretch. Last season, he limited hitters to a slash line of .199/.237/.306 coming off the bases-empty tightrope compared to .259/.294/.426 coming off the stretch. with runners standing

Did Nola start running once Seager reached base and Adolis Garcia came down to play golf with a curveball that plunged into the dirt to left field for a one-out single?

“I don’t know if it hurt him, but it probably didn’t help,” pitching coach Caleb Cotham said. “Those are the forever times where they always tell you to legitimately slow down the game. Take your time. That type of entry, next time, will have more strategies. That’s the first time he’s really felt that.”

Cotham tried to calm things down for Nola by taking the mound after Garcia’s single. But Nola walked Josh Jung and allowed a line double to Jonah Heim. Grossman followed with a three-run home run to right field.

“You try to push a little more (with the runners on), right?” Nola said. “That’s when you really have to make good pitches. I didn’t do that today.”

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Nola has come to occupy some stature within the organization. Selected in the first round in 2014, he is the player with the longest tenure on the active roster. He was also making his sixth straight opening day start, the third-longest streak in club history behind Hall of Famers Robin Roberts (12 in a row) and Steve Carlton (10).

It’s rarefied air. And Nola had hoped to sign a contract extension with the Phillies, but she was unable to reach an agreement before the parties agreed to talks last weekend. Now, she may be heading to free agency at the end of the season.

Trea Turner celebrates after scoring in the third inning.

Yong Kim / Staff Photographer

Right now, though, Nola’s biggest concern will be finding a better rhythm on the shot clock. Like most pitchers, he was always taught to get off the mound whenever the game started to pick up speed. Under the new rules, pitchers can only step on the rubber twice per at-bat.

“It’s about knowing how many disconnections, what do I do to slow this down, how can I incorporate the use of our visits appropriately and things that we can do within the rules,” Cotham said. “It’s a learning point.”

Surely, the Phillies think they can put a “W” next to games when they have a five-run lead and one of their aces on the mound.

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The Phillies had six extra-base hits in 3⅔ innings against deGrom, who had never allowed more than five in 209 previous major league starts. They blitzed his old nemesis with the Mets. Alec Bohm hit a two-run home run on a 99 mph fly ball fastball in the second inning. In the third, $300 million shortstop Trea Turner punctuated his long-awaited debut with the Phillies by following up Brandon Marsh’s leadoff 3-pointer with a 3-pointer of his own.

But after Nola lost the lead, the Rangers took the lead, 6-5, on Nathaniel Lowe’s 35-foot squibber down the third-base line off reliever Gregory Soto and kept going.

Phillies pitcher Connor Brogdon returns to the mound after giving up a two-run home run in the fifth inning..Read moreYong Kim / Staff Photographer

An auspicious start, a disappointing end.

All too familiar in Texas for the Phillies.

Nick Castellanos, who made the final out of the World Series, even struck out on a full-count pitch with two runners on against Rangers closer José Leclerc to cap opening day.

Another reminder of how things turned out.



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