Nola, Alvarado falter, Phillies bats silent in Game 4 loss

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Aaron Nola trudged off the mound in Game 4 with both the bases loaded and another disaster of a postseason start behind him. Unlike his first faulty World Series start, the Phillies’ bats couldn’t bail out the righty and rally for a win.

Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and the rest of the Phillies sluggers couldn’t even muster a hit against Cristian Javier and three relievers in a 5-0 loss on Wednesday night. The Astros tied the series 2-2.

It was second playoff no-hitter in Citizens Bank Park history. The late Phillies ace Roy Halladay no-hit the Reds in the 2010 NLDS.

Nola, who fell to 2-2 in the postseason, failed to pitch out of the fifth inning for the third straight start and threw nothing like the ace expected to lead the top of the rotation.

He just wasn’t good enough.

Once he left, José Alvarado was worse.

The first sign of cracks in the vaunted postseason bullpen came when Alvarado on his first pitch plunked Yordan Alvarez in the rear with the bases loaded. Then the real hits came: Alex Bregman ripped a two-RBI double to right. Kyle Tucker made it 4-0 on a sacrifice fly. Yuli Gurriel poked an RBI single to left past a drawn-in infield and suddenly it was 5-0 in the fifth.

Nola, who became the fourth pitcher to make five starts in a single postseason in franchise history, allowed three runs, seven hits, hit a batter and struck out four in four-plus innings.

The Astros took a 5-0 lead for the third time in this series.

The first time, Game 1.

Nola was done in that one after 4 1/3 innings, though he retired the final six batters he faced and left in a tie game after the Phillies rallied from an early 5-0 deficit. They won 6-5.

Philadelphia’s bullpen shut down the Astros in Game 1 to aid the comeback. In fact, the relievers had combined to toss 12 2/3 scoreless innings to start the World Series, the longest scoreless streak for a bullpen in a World Series since Toronto in 1992.

The Phillies even juggled their dancing lineup, about anything to shake out of their funk, trading their postseason anthem “Dancing On My Own” for “Dancing In the Dark” in honor of Bruce Springsteen’s appearance at Game 4.

Phillies fans that turned Citizens Bank Park into the rowdiest postseason party in all of baseball — and a 6-0 postseason record at home before Wednesday — hit the exits in the eighth inning. Even some of the diehards ran on fumes.

The 29-year-old Nola, the seventh overall pick by the Phillies in the 2014 draft, made his playoff debut with 12 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run as Philadelphia swept the NL wild-card round against St. Louis and upset defending World Series champion Atlanta in the Division Series. His 11 2/3 scoreless streak to begin his playoff career is the longest in club history.

Nola, though, struggled in Game 2 of the NL Championship Series, allowing six runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings in a loss to San Diego. His older brother, Austin Nola, had a key RBI single off Aaron during that Padres victory.

Phillies manager Rob Thomson said before the game that Noah Syndergaard would start Game. 5. Syndergaard pitched three times this postseason — one start — and allowed one run in five innings.

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