Aaron Nola outduels Max Scherzer, stakes his claim for Cy Young

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The Nationals had taken two in a row from the Phillies heading into this afternoon’s contest and had to feel pretty good about their chances given that two-time reigning Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer was on the hill. The only problem: Aaron Nola was on the hill for the Phillies and, on this day, Nola was better.

The Phillies’ ace tossed eight shutout innings, allowing only five hits and striking out nine Washington batters. He threw 102 pitches, 70 of which found the zone. He was sharp and dominant all afternoon long.

The ninth batter he punched out was Bryce Harper, who came to the plate with two out in the eighth inning with a chance to give the Nats the lead or, at the very least, a chance to put them on the board and back in the game. After Adam Eaton doubled and the speedy Trea Turner walked, a mere double would’ve tied the game, but Nola bore down and, on a 2-2 count, fired in a 95 m.p.h. fastball and got Harper swinging:

Just blew it right by him. His 102nd and final pitch and probably his best.

Pat Neshek closed the game out in the ninth giving the Phillies a much-needed win as they try to catch the Braves in the NL East.

On a personal level, though, Nola made a statement today. He, Scherzer and Jacob deGrom all have an argument for the Cy Young Award this year, but  given that some voters may hold deGrom’s record — 8-8 after today’s no-decision against the Giants — against him, and given his head-to-head victory over Scherzer today, one has to consider him the frontrunner. Heck, he may also be one of the frontrunners for the NL MVP Award given that no offensive player has made a clear claim to the hardware yet.

On the pitching side, today Nola lowered his ERA to 2.13 — tying Scherzer and trailing only deGrom’s 1.71 — and upped his record to 15-3. The Phillies are 18-4 when Nola starts. One might say that’s . . . valuable.

Angels place Andrew Heaney on 10-day injured list

Andrew Heaney
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The Angels have placed Andrew Heaney on the 10-day injured list with left shoulder inflammation, the club announced Saturday. The move is retroactive to July 17, though it’s not yet certain that he’ll be cleared to pitch again by the end of the month.

It’s an unfortunate development for the 28-year-old southpaw, who has battled inflammation in his pitching elbow on and off since spring training. In fact, his arm issues date back several years, including the shoulder impingement that put him on the shelf in 2017 and the Tommy John surgery he underwent in 2016. With such a complicated medical history, it makes sense that the Angels would want to proceed with caution as they facilitate the lefty’s eventual return to the mound.

Given his ongoing struggles, Heaney has seen mixed results with the club in 2019. Prior to his recent IL assignment, he pitched to a 1-3 record in nine starts with a 5.09 ERA, 3.7 BB/9, and 10.6 SO/9 through 46 innings. Since the end of June, however, his starts have gotten shorter and shorter; he lasted just 4 1/3 innings in his final outing against the Astros, expending a tremendous 103 pitches and issuing two runs, two walks, and five strikeouts during the team’s eventual 7-2 win.

In a corresponding roster move, the Angels claimed lefty reliever Adalberto Mejía off of waivers from the Twins. Mejía, 26, is expected to be activated ahead of Saturday’s game versus the Mariners. Over 13 appearances with Minnesota, he turned in an 8.80 ERA, 7.0 BB/9, and 8.8 SO/9 in 15 1/3 innings.