By Sam Bush
In case, you had any doubt, Aaron Nola is the Phils’ stopper.
As in, the pitcher you can depend on to stop a losing streak, even a modest one.
Nola pitched six scoreless innings and the visiting Phillies beat the San Diego Padres 5-1 to move back into first place in the NL East.
The Phillies were shut out in their previous two games and went 18 consecutive innings without scoring at Petco Park, dating to last season, before they put two on the board in the first inning.
“Anytime you are able to jump on the opposition early with a guy like Aaron Nola on the mound, it gives you a lot of confidence,” manager Gabe Kapler said.
Nola (13-3) struck out five, gave up four hits and lowered his ERA to 2.28 as the Phillies moved one game ahead of second-place Atlanta in the NL East.
Maikel Franco blasted a 2-0 fastball from Walker Lockett (0-3) into the second balcony of the Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field in the fourth inning to put the Phillies up 3-0.
Cesar Hernandez hit his career-high 10th homer in the fifth, and Carlos Santana followed with an RBI groundout to score Rhys Hoskins, making it 5-0 and chasing Lockett. The rookie allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings.
The Phillies went ahead in the first on Nick Williams’ RBI triple and Asdrubal Cabrera’s run-scoring double.
“We’re playing as a team, we’re playing as a whole,” Nola said. “Guys are coming up clutch throughout the whole team.”
The Padres got their only run in the seventh after reliever Austin Davis surrendered a triple to Cory Spangenberg and a walk. Victor Arano came in and allowed Manuel Margot’s sacrifice fly before retiring the next two batters.
Tommy Hunter and Seranthony Dominguez blanked the Padres the rest of the way.
“I think our starting pitching has taken real steps forward from where they were at the beginning of the season, and maybe the bullpen has been even better than we thought it was going to be,” Kapler said.