By Sam Bush

If last night’s start against the Nats was his last of the 2017 season, Phillies’ ace Aaron Nola went on in style:

He allowed five hits, two runs, two walks and struck out nine in six innings in a 3-1 loss to the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. It might have been his final start of the season, although he could pitch in Sunday’s season finale.

If Monday was his finale, Nola finished 12-11 with a 3.54 ERA, currently the 10th-best mark in the National League.

“I felt like I stayed within myself and within my routine all year, pretty well,” Nola told MLB.com. “Going into next year, I can kind of just build on the things that need to be worked on.”

Nola has struck out 184 batters in 168 innings and averaged 9.86 strikeouts per nine innings, the third-best mark in Phillies history. Only Curt Schilling fared better, averaging 11.29 strikeouts per nine in 1997 and 10.05 strikeouts in 1998.

“I don’t think it’s really that surprising,” Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp told MLB.com. “He’s got command of three pitches. The fastball is good enough that people have to respect it, and then the curveball is obviously lights out. He can throw it in any count, and when you can do that you can really switch counts. So, [when] you get guys 1-2 instead of 2-1, it’s huge.”

“It’s been the cherry on top,” Knapp said of the changeup. “It’s a hard pitch to hit when you’re a left-handed hitter, but when you’re right-handed coming to that back foot, it’s a really good pitch.”