By Tom Brennan

Aaron Nola gets the start tonight in. Chicago, and in many ways he holds the key to the Phillies second half of the season and to their playoff hopes.

After putting up a 3.13 ERA in 79 starts over the last three seasons — and earning NL Cy Young Award votes in two of the three — Nola has a 4.44 ERA through 17 starts this season. That includes a 5.22 ERA in 13 starts since tossing his first career nine-inning shutout on April 18 against the Cardinals.

Nola tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Yankees on June 13. He tied an MLB record with 10 straight K’s as part of a 12-strikeout performance over 5 1/3 scoreless frames against the Mets on June 25.

But he allowed six runs in just 2 1/3 innings in his one outing between those two, and he was tagged for seven runs on nine hits in just 4 2/3 innings his last time out on Wednesday — though he did strike out 11.

With the uncertainty at the back of the rotation, the Phillies will need Nola to rediscover the consistency that made him the staff ace over the past few years.

His takes the mound tonight opposite former teammate Jake Arrieta and the Cubs.

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