PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Aaron Nola laughed when he said he was ready to fight if Phillies manager Joe Girardi didn’t let him start the ninth inning.
No rumble needed.
“I knew he had never had a nine-inning shutout and that was important to him and that’s why I let him go,” Girardi said.
Nola struck out 10 and threw a two-hitter for his first nine-inning shutout in the majors, leading the Philadelphia Phillies to a 2-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.
Bryce Harper homered and had three hits for the Phillies.
Nola threw a pair of doubleheader-shortened complete games last season, including a shutout. But he never pitched into the ninth inning over his first 142 career starts.
First baseman Rhys Hoskins tossed Nola the ball and saluted the righty after the final out. Nola (1-1) threw 109 pitches and did little more than give a small fist bump when he completed the milestone.
Nola pitched like the ace the Phillies need if they want to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Nola allowed only two singles and retired 13 straight going into the eighth. He did not walk a batter.
Nolan needed to become a stopper — and he came up big a day after the Cardinals’ 9-4 win, shutting down for a day the critics that say he’s not a true ace in a division loaded with stars like Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom.
“For sure I hear it and, no it doesn’t bother me,” Nola said.
He took no-decisions in his first two starts and lost his last outing, when he needed 92 pitches to get through five innings against the New York Mets. Nola had a nine-pitch first on Sunday, and struck out two in the second, setting the tone for one of the more dominant starts of his career.
Harper sat out Saturday’s loss after waking up with tightness in his lower back. The…