“It’s pretty fun,” Phillies ace Aaron Nola said after National League’s eventual 8-6 loss. “I mean, this whole experience is fun for me.”

By Sam Bush

Nola’s pitching performance was fun for Phillies fans too!

He pitched the fifth inning, struck out Royals catcher Salvador Perez with a curveball and Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts thanks to a 96-mph fastball.

“I can get up to 95,” Nola said. “I got up to 96 a few times last year, maybe once or twice this year. But I know I can’t be throwing 99, 100 like a lot of these guys. I don’t really care about that.”

After Astros second baseman Jose Altuve — last year’s AL MVP — knocked a first-pitch single, Nola got Angels outfielder Mike Trout — the game’s best player — to pop out. He threw 15 pitches, 10 for strikes. Nola said he didn’t initially realize who was due up, but Phillies outfielder Rhys Hoskins, a day after competing in the Home Run Derby, noticed the way his teammate elevated his stuff against arguably baseball’s best three hitters.

Nola, 25, became the youngest Phillies pitcher in the last 50 years — besides Cole Hamels in 2007 and Vicente Padilla in 2002 — to make his All-Star debut.

He joined an elite group that includes Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Hall of Famers Steve Carlton, Jim Bunning and Robin Roberts as Phillies to throw in an All-Star Game.

No NL pitcher has more wins in 2018 than Nola’s career-high 12. Only one has a better ERA than his 2.30. The Phillies, meanwhile, hold a half-game advantage atop the NL East.

Those numbers, paired with a dominant All-Star appearance, prove what the Nola has become to the Phillies. They are youngest team in the Majors. None of their 15 All-Stars from 2010-2015 remain with organization. But they have Nola, who has led a new generation to not just relevance, but contention. Tuesday sent a reminder to the rest of baseball.

“I think [Hoskins and I] just wanted to represent the Phillies well,” Nola said. “I think we did.”

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