PHILADELPHIA — Aaron Nola pitched another gem for the Phillies. One day, he might actually get to finish one.
Eight’s been enough for Nola, who has to save that right arm for a team chasing a playoff spot.
“The prize is in the month of October,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said.
Nola might get them there for the first time in nine years. He tossed two-hit ball over eight innings, Andrew McCutchen hit a three-run homer and Alec Bohm also went deep to lead Philadelphia past the Washington Nationals 6-0 on Tuesday night.
“You could see his stuff was really good right from the beginning,” Girardi said.
So could the Nationals — stars Trea Turner and Juan Soto went a combined 0 for 6.
“This is the best I think I’ve seen Nola throw,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said.
Nola (4-2) threw 113 pitches in his latest dominant outing before he yielded to Hector Neris for the ninth. Nola has yet to pitch a complete game in 134 career starts dating to his debut in 2015. He struck out nine and allowed two or fewer runs for the fifth time this season.
The Phillies are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and are now in the stretch when their hopes traditionally begin to fade. Philadelphia went a combined 93-123 in September from 2012-19 and its .431 winning percentage during the month ranked 27th out of 30 major league teams.
Perhaps, in this far-out season when even a .500 record makes a playoff push realistic, the Phillies could break the drought.
“I don’t personally feel like we’re even hot,” McCutchen said. “We’re getting there. I’m feeling like this month for us is going to be a big month.”
Bohm’s solo shot to left field for his second homer of the season and J.T. Realmuto’s RBI single off Washington starter Patrick Corbin (2-3) gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead in the fifth.
The Phillies caught a pair of breaks in the sixth to bust the game open. Nationals second baseman Luis Garcia bobbled a hard-hit grounder that cost them a 4-6-3 double play. Bohm followed with a shot to left- centre that sent Didi Gregorius scurrying around third — and perhaps misreading the stop sign for Jay Bruce charging behind — stumbling on the grass. Gregorius recovered and slid head-first into home for a 3-0 lead.
McCutchen, who shook off a slow start, dropped the bat on a three-run shot off Kyle Finnegan to make it 6-0.
The Phillies have won 11 of 17 games to move a game over .500 (16-15) for the first time this season and remain in an NL playoff spot. Nola has two starts this year in which he tossed at least eight innings and allowed two hits or fewer. He’s pitched into the eighth inning 14 times.
“These are always fun games,” Nola said.
Mired in a slump, Nationals CF Victor Robles was out of the starting lineup for the second straight game. He’s hitting just .200 (5 for 25) with nine strikeouts in his last seven games. Michael A. Taylor, who homered Monday night, got another start in centre .
Nationals: Reliever Javy Guerra left the game in the ninth with a sore left hamstring. Martinez and a trainer came out to visit Guerra and they all left the mound together after a brief chat.
Phillies: LHP Ranger Suárez is available to pitch for the first time since he tested positive for COVID-19 in June. Suárez went 6-1 with a 3.14 ERA in 37 relief appearances last season. ... Philadelphia placed LHP Adam Morgan on the 10-day IL with left shoulder fatigue.
Nola could face older brother Austin after the catcher was traded from Seattle to San Diego ahead of Monday's trade deadline. The Padres are in strong contention for their first playoff berth since 2006.
“I think he’s going to fit in really well over there,” Nola said.
The Phillies will retire Dick Allen’s No. 15 in a ceremony before Thursday’s game. Allen will also be honoured by the Phillies next season at Citizens Bank Park when fans can be in attendance.
The Nationals send RHP Max Scherzer (3-1, 3.86 ERA) to the mound against Philadelphia RHP Zack Wheeler (3-0, 2.58). Scherzer is 5-0 with a 2.40 ERA over 48 2/3 innings in seven career starts at Citizens Bank Park.
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Dan Gelston, The Associated Press