|Phils lean on Nola in series finale vs. Marlins|
The Philadelphia Phillies have their sights on their first postseason appearance since 2011, and the right arm of Aaron Nola is expected to carry a lot of weight down the stretch.
Nola is scheduled to take the mound in the series finale at the Miami Marlins on Sunday afternoon.
The Phillies enter Sunday 1 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs for the second National League wild-card berth.
Philadelphia made up ground on Saturday with a 9-3 win that evened the three-game series against the Marlins, who had won six of the previous seven head-to-head meetings.
The Phillies made major investments in the offseason in hopes of ending their playoff drought, most notably signing right fielder Bryce Harper to a 13-year $330-million deal. Harper has missed the first two games of the series while on paternity leave.
One of the team's few homegrown stars, Nola (12-3, 3.51 ERA) has done his part this season, especially over the past two months. He went 3-0 with a 2.52 ERA in six starts in July and is 3-1 with a 2.42 ERA in four starts this month.
Nola most recently beat the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park on Tuesday, allowing two runs and four hits over seven innings against one of the top offenses in the majors.
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler told reporters after the outing that he plans to ride Nola every fifth day the rest of the season.
"He's as physically prepared as any pitcher I've even been around," Kapler said. "He's as mentally prepared as any pitcher I've ever been around, so I think he's built for this. And, quite frankly, we're in a pennant race, and he's far and away our best and most dependable pitcher, so it's time to take that sort of liberty."
Nola has faced the Marlins twice this season and pitched well each time, but was hurt by a lack of run support. He allowed one run and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings of a no-decision in a 3-1 loss in 10 innings on April 25.
Nola faced the Marlins in Philadelphia again on June 21 and gave up two runs (one earned) and six hits over eight innings, taking the loss in the 2-1 defeat. Nola struck out 10 in defeat.
Nola is 3-5 in 12 career starts against the Marlins with a 3.23 ERA.
The Marlins will look to catcher Jorge Alfaro, who the Phillies dealt to Miami in the offseason trade involving J.T. Realmuto, to continue his hot hitting against his former team. He's 6-for-9 in the series, belting a solo home run in the loss on Saturday.
"Got a little confidence going at the plate," Marlins manager Don Mattingly told reporters after the loss. "When he puts the ball in play, he's usually got a pretty good shot."
Alfaro and others will need to pick up the offensive slack for right fielder/third baseman Brian Anderson, who was hit by a pitch on Friday night and sustained a fractured fifth metacarpal. He's expected to miss the rest of the season. Anderson leads the Marlins with 20 home runs and 66 RBIs.
The Marlins plan to oppose Nola with right-hander Elieser Hernandez, who left his last outing after a blister developed on his right middle finger.
Hernandez (2-5, 5.18) faced the Phillies in back-to-back starts earlier this summer and went 1-0 in those games with the Marlins winning both.
He gave up three runs and five hits in five innings of a 5-3 win on June 22 and six days later allowed two runs and three hits in 5 2/3 innings, and earned his first win of the season in the 6-2 victory.
--Field Level Media