Aaron Nola is headed to the bright lights of the All-Star Game next week. Trevor Richards is heading home to the sleepy southern Illinois farming community of Aviston to kick back for a few days.
The two pitchers took different paths to the majors, with Nola going in the first round of the draft and Richards going undrafted and working his way up from the obscurity of an independent league team.
On Saturday, they shared the same mound at Marlins Park, and it was Richards who emerged on top.
Richards turned in six shutout innings as the Marlins handed the Phillies a 2-0 loss to even their series.
“It’s fun going against those guys,” Richards said of his match-up with Nola. “You know they’re going to pitch a good game, so you know coming in that you’ve got to throw well.”
Nola struggled so badly in a 31-pitch first inning that long man Mark Leiter Jr. was up throwing in the bullpen. Nola had given up two runs total in his previous three starts but gave up that many to the Marlins in a difficult first.
Derek Dietrich and Brian Anderson started things with consecutive singles, then ended up scoring before the inning was over to give the Marlins a 2-0 lead. Neither team scored the rest of the way.
“You know when you’re facing a guy like Nola, you’re going to have to get a guy that keeps you in the game,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly. “We got him early, too.”
But Mattingly never thought two runs would be enough.
“You don’t think two (runs) is necessarily going to hold up,” Mattingly said. “But it at least puts you in a position where (Richards) has got a little bit of a breathing room out there.”
After that, Nola reverted to his All-Star form, holding the Marlins to only two base runners over the next five innings. The Marlins managed only one hit after the first inning.
But Richards was up for the challenge.
With a fastball/change-up mix that kept Phillies hitters guessing throughout, Richards made it through six innings without allowing a run. He ran into trouble just once, in the first inning when the Phillies put two aboard on two weak hits by Rhys Hoskins and Odubal Herrera.
Richards got out of it, though, by striking out Carlos Santana and Maikel Franco.
Richards also received a run-saving catch by Marlins center fielder Cameron Maybin in the fifth. With a runner at third, Hoskins drilled a long shot to right-center. Maybin ran it down, reached out with a fully extended glove, and came up with the catch, with a full 50 percent of the ball showing at the end of his webbing.
“That was huge,” Mattingly said.
Said Richards: “That was an incredible play. I mean, he saved the game right there. That’s at least one run, and who knows after that? He covered some ground there. That was pretty incredible.”
Franco was guilty of a bone-headed play in the sixth when he came up with Starlin Castro’s ground ball, which was ruled fair but took the Phillies third baseman into foul territory to make the play. Franco, thinking the ball was foul, promptly tossed it to a fan in the seats near the Marlins dugout. Castro was automatically awarded second base.
“That was a first for me right there,” Mattingly said. “That was a different one.”
But the strange miscue didn’t prove costly as Nola retired Martin Prado on an infield pop to end the inning.
After Richards came out, the Marlins’ bullpen did the rest, with Brad Ziegler, Drew Steckenrider and Kyle Barraclough combining to preserve the shutout.