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Red Sox 2, Phillies 3: Aaron Nola shuts ‘em down

The streak is over, thanks mostly to the Phillies ace.

Philadelphia Phillies v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Well, the win streak was never going to last forever, and in fact it ended at five games. Heading into this series that put Brian Johnson up against Aaron Nola, things were bleak before the first pitch was even thrown. Then, the first pitch was thrown, and then a few more and eventually the Phillies had a 3-0 lead before Nola even had to throw a pitch. As it turns out, that would be enough. The good news is Boston’s bullpen had a great day, and the Phillies didn’t score again after that first inning. The bad news is the offense got a two-run homer off Nola from Jackie Bradley Jr. but nothing else. They did have some chances on which they failed to cash in, but the majority of the credit here goes to the pitcher. Nola can deal, plain and simple.

The story of the Red Sox right now, beyond their attempt to get back into the playoff race, is their rotation. David Price has been on the injured list, though he’s hopefully returning soon. Chris Sale, meanwhile, was just placed on the IL himself and is virtually guaranteed to miss the rest of the year. Without those two, Boston is left scrambling for starting pitching options and looking at a whole lot of games from guys who simply aren’t stretched out. The best-case scenario for guys like Brian Johnson, who got the call for Tuesday’s series opener against the Phillies, is to give the team few scoreless innings before handing things over to the bullpen.

Johnson was not going to be so lucky in this game. The Phillies have a whole lot of talent in their lineup and will punish bad pitchers who aren’t making the pitches they need to make. That is exactly what happened to Johnson in his first inning of work. Rhys Hoskins led things off with a walk, Bryce Harper came up a couple batters later and smacked a double to put a pair in scoring position with just one out. That brought Jean Segura to the plate and he ripped one off the Monster to drive two in to give Philly the early lead. They continued to add on, too, with Scott Kingery bringing Segura home with a two-out single. Before the Red Sox even had a chance to bat, the Phillies jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

The good news is Johnson settled down in the next few innings and didn’t let Philly pile on and run away with this one early. There certainly seemed like a lot of potential for this to happen after that first, but the southpaw got the job done. He’d issue just a walk in the second and just a single in the third. That single was followed by a successful pickoff, too, so he only had to face three batters in the frame.

Philadelphia Phillies v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Still, the Red Sox offense had an uphill battle and they were trying to get through it against one of the better pitchers in the National League in Aaron Nola. The righty has had a somewhat disappointing year after finishing third in Cy Young voting a year ago, but most of that came early in the year. He’s looked a whole lot like his normal self for a couple months now, and the Red Sox got a first-hand look at it early on Tuesday. Nola set the side down in order in the first before issuing a leadoff walk in the second but using an inning-ending double play to still face the minimum.

After Johnson’s second straight scoreless inning in the top of the third, it was the bottom of the Red Sox order that finally got to Nola a bit. Mitch Moreland led off the inning and got things started the right way, smacking a single the other way against the shift. Two batters later, Jackie Bradley Jr. stepped into the box and gave the Red Sox exactly what they were looking for. Nola caught too much of the plate with a first-pitch fastball that stayed middle-in and Bradley launched it into the bullpen for a two-run shot. Just like that, it was a one-run ballgame.

With the Sox offense now on the board, Johnson was back out there looking for a shutdown inning to keep some of this momentum. He didn’t get off to the start he was looking for, though, allowing a leadoff base hit to César Hernández. He’d get two outs in the inning, but he also allowed the runner to get into scoring position with a wild pitch. Eventually, Marcus Walden came into the game with the runner on second and two outs. He did give up an infield single to put runners on first and second, but the Phillies couldn’t take advantage and Boston escaped with the deficit still at one.

Walden would come back out for the fifth where he tossed a 1-2-3 inning before Josh Taylor came out and did the same in the sixth.

With the pitching doing the job after that first inning, the offense now had to get going beyond that Bradley homer. After going down in order in the fourth they did get a leadoff double from Christian Vázquez in the fifth. He would, however, be stranded at second. Similarly, Mookie Betts started the sixth with a single then immediately stole second base, but like Vázquez he was stranded there after three straight outs.

Philadelphia Phillies v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Both teams went down in order in the seventh, with Ryan Brasier doing the pitching in the top half. Then, after Darwinzon Hernandez tossed a perfect eighth, the Red Sox finally got a chance to face a pitcher other than Nola. Philly turned to the left-handed José Álvarez. He faced two batters, the latter of which being Bradley, who reached on a single.

With the runner on first, Mike Morin was coming to the mound with the top of the order due up for the Sox. Morin came on and struck out Betts on three pitches, leaving it up to Rafael Devers. The third baseman would line out to center field, ending the inning with Boston still trailing.

Matt Barnes would let two reach — though one was on a strikeout that Vázquez absolutely should have kept in front of him — but finished off the scoreless inning. That gave the Red Sox three more outs to score at least one with the middle of the order coming up against Phillies closer Hector Nerís. They got off to a great start, too, with Xander Bogaerts doubling out to the left-center field gap. As soon as he got on, though, he was just as quickly taken off due to his own mistake. J.D. Martinez hit a ground ball to shortstop and Bogaerts inexplicably tried to get to third on the play. He was easily thrown out at first. Then, after Chris Owings came in to run for Martinez, Andrew Benintendi hit a liner right at Segura in the shift. It ended up getting Owings doubled up at first and the inning ended in the blink of an eye. Just a bafflingly frustrating game that ended in the most frustrating way possible.

The Red Sox and Phillies will be back in action to complete this short two-game series on Wednesday. Weather could prove to be an issue for this one, but assuming it cooperates it will be Rick Porcello taking on Drew Smyly. First pitch is, for now, scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.