Nola shows potential to lead Phillies rotation

Right-hander has 1.78 ERA over last five starts, including Saturday vs. Brewers

Nola shows potential to lead Phillies rotation

MILWAUKEE -- The Phillies have been searching for the next Cole Hamels since they traded him to the Rangers in July 2015.

Right-hander Aaron Nola is making his case to be the Phillies' next frontline starter.

He allowed two runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out seven on Saturday night in a 3-2 loss to the Brewers at Miller Park. He is 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP in his past five starts and 4-3 with a 2.65 ERA in eight starts since the beginning of June.

"He's back to the Aaron Nola that everybody wanted up here as soon as he got drafted," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp said.

The Phillies selected Nola in the first round of the 2014 Draft. and he projected as a middle-of-the-rotation starter with the potential for more. In other words, he might not be an elite ace like Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer, but he can be somebody like Hamels who will give his club a legitimate chance to win every five days.

Mackanin on Nola's performance

Can Nola be that guy?

"One hundred percent," Rupp said. "When he's locating his pitches, it's game over."

"I definitely think I can be, yeah," Nola said. "I try to do everything I can to win every time I go out, do everything I can to keep the ballgame close, give up the least runs as I can and battle out there. I want the guys to know I'm going to battle my butt off every time I go out there, try to give them a chance to win."

Nola went 11-6 with a 3.12 ERA in his first 25 starts with the Phillies -- while Hamels was 9-8 with a 3.84 ERA in his first 25 outings -- but the right-hander was just 3-8 with a 7.48 ERA in 14 starts from June 11, 2016, through May 31. Nola battled two injuries in that time, to his right elbow and lower back. He also has struggled with his command, which was his calling card in college at Louisiana State.

But the command is back, his fastball velocity is up, his curveball is better and his changeup has turned into a pretty decent pitch.

"I'm really happy for him and for us, because he really turned it around," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He started off in the big leagues and looked like a real good find, a real good pickup there. Then he went through that period where he was searching and the arm issue, the command issue, then he got back out of it. He got back out of that hole, and he's better than ever.

"Just because you start off real good, it doesn't mean it's going to continue. You have to battle through the issues you have, which he did, and now he's gone through that learning process. He's better for it. That's what everybody has to do."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.