Rangers chase 9-time first-rounder Aaron Nola in Opening Day 11-7 disappointing Phillies

Rangers chase 9-time first-rounder Aaron Nola in Opening Day 11-7 disappointing Phillies

Arlington, Texas — It started Thursday where it finished four months ago, give or take about 250 miles on the road. Same case, though. Also against a team from the American League West.

And what about the result?

Another disappointment.

Let’s be clear: On a scale from somewhat disappointing to utterly soul-crushing, the Phillies’ 11-7 come-from-behind loss to the Rangers on the 141st Opening Day in franchise history hardly registers as a moment. Sure, it might drag on a little bit, especially with the day off on Friday. But after a long while, you’ll merge with the 161 games that are about to follow.

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Memories of the past were brought over from before how It happened almost as often. Because the Phillies’ last trip to Texas, 145 days ago in Houston, culminated in a World Series defeat that they led after Game 3. But they have gone 12-3 by the Astros in their last three contests, 4-1 in the deciding Game 6.

Remember the feeling? sure you do.

And so — after former President George W. Bush delivered the ball on a ceremonial first pitch to the mound, where Nolan Ryan was standing, and a crowd of 38,387 sold the ball and sang “Texas, Our Texas” — the Phillies jumped out to a 5-0 lead, spoiling Rangers debut for Indomitable Jacob DeGrom, with first baseman Aaron Nola on the mound.

It was shaping up to be, well, about the size of Texas.

Until it was not.

“A lot of pitches, behind the guys, they get it [Corey] said Nola, recovering from a nightmarish fourth inning in which the Rangers scored nine goals, nine runs, and five runs from Nola. “I left some balls on top of the plate. It was a bit of a change. I’ll have to go back and watch it. They hit several good pitches, but one of them [Robbie] Grossman was in the middle.”

Alec Baum hits a home run twice in the second inning.Young Kim / Staff Photographer

The fourth inning was especially problematic because Nola didn’t allow a great deal of hitting through the first three. But that all seemed to change once Seager hit a one-hit single to left field.

Nola spoke candidly at spring training about the difficulty of adjusting to the court clock. It has always been one of the Phillies’ slower running ballparks. Now, under MLB’s new pace of play rules, pitchers must deliver the ball within 15 seconds with the bases empty and 20 with the runners.

Did Nola start rushing as soon as Seager reached base and Adolis Garcia golfed a curveball dunking into the dirt to left field for a one-out?

“I don’t know if it hurt him, but it probably didn’t help,” said hitting coach Caleb Cotham. “These are the times when it’s always legitimately told to slow down the game. Take your time. Then, next time, he’ll have more strategies. This is the first time he’s really felt like that.”

Cotham tried to slow things down for Nola by walking out to the mound after García’s single. But Nola walked with Josh Jung and gave up a double streak to Jonah Hime. Grossman followed with a three-run homer to right field.

“You’re trying to squeeze in a little more [with runners on]Right?” said Nola. “That’s when you really have to put on good performances. I didn’t do that today.”

There might be an hour in NOLA time with the Phillies, too.

NOLA has come to occupy a certain position within the organization. Drafted in the first round in 2014, he is the longest-serving player on the active roster. He was also making his sixth consecutive Opening Day starts, the third-most streak in club history behind Robin Roberts (12 straight) and Steve Carlton (10), both Hall of Famers.

It’s rare air. Nola had hoped to sign a contract extension with the Phillies but was unable to reach an agreement before the two sides agreed to table talks last weekend. Now, he may be heading to free agency at the end of the season.

For now, though, Nola’s biggest concern will be finding a better rhythm with the clock ticking and only letting her rubber out twice per pat.

“It’s figuring out how many disengagements there are, what I do to slow this down, how I can build in using our visits appropriately, and things we can do within the rules,” Cotham said. “It’s a learning point.”

Sure, the Phillies can put a “W” next to games when they have a five-run lead and one of their aces on the mound.

Trea Turner celebrates after scoring in the third period.

Young Kim / Staff Photographer

The Phillies notched six extra base hits in 3 innings against DeGrom, who had never allowed more than five in 209 previous major league games. They attacked their former opponent with the Mets. Alec Boehm blasted a two-run homer on a high 99-mile-per-hour fastball in the second inning. In the third, $300 million hitter Trea Turner punctuated his highly anticipated Phillies debut by following Brandon Marsh’s leadoff triple with a triple of his own.

But after Nola took the lead, the Rangers took a lead, 6-5, on Nathaniel Lowe’s 35-foot home run at the third base line against reliever Gregory Soto and kept going.

Auspicious start, disappointing end.

Very familiar in Texas to the Phillies.

Even World Series finalist Nick Castellanos made it off the field with runners on board against the Rangers, a closer Jose Leclerc than reaching Opening Day.

Another reminder of how things left off.

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