SAN DIEGO — Last August, when Aaron and Austin Nola met at Petco Park, it marked the first time the two brothers had squared off on a big league stage. Aaron, the Phillies right-hander, dialed up three fastballs. Austin, the Padres catcher, struck out swinging.
Come December, Aaron had a Christmas present for Austin: the baseball he threw for strike three.
There are still six months until Christmas 2022. But it was older brother who got his shopping done early this year.
Austin Nola picked the perfect time for his first Major League hit against his younger brother on Friday night. He smacked a go-ahead, opposite-field single that proved decisive in the Padres’ 1-0 victory over the Phillies at Petco Park.
“Yeah, he hit it,” Aaron said. “He poked it out there. Probably won’t hear the end of it for a while, but good bit of hitting.”
That’s the way it generally used to go in their backyard in Baton Rouge, La. Wiffle ball was the game of choice, and Austin, older by some three years and change, almost always got the better of those matchups.
“He was always making up pitches in the backyard, trying to get me out,” said Austin, who’s now 32. “That was when he was younger, and I was older. Now he’s obviously the man.”
Suddenly, it was Austin on the wrong end of those duels against one of the sport’s best starting pitchers. And these were big league duels, with real big league stakes. Austin entered his fifth at-bat against his brother, hitless with two strikeouts. He fell behind in the count, 0-2, swinging and missing at a nasty curveball from the 29-year-old Aaron.
“Man, I was 0-2 the whole game against him,” Austin said. “The past two years, I’ve been 0-2. It’s nothing new. He’s: one strike, two strikes. And I’m like, ‘Good lord.’ Then I look up at him, and he’s just locked in.”
Aaron went back to the fastball, and this time Austin was ready, spraying a line drive to right field that plated Eric Hosmer, who had doubled earlier in the frame. That proved to be enough – because, behind the plate, Austin called nine shutout frames, including five from Padres rookie left-hander MacKenzie Gore.
“We played really well against a really good arm and a good team, and we won,” Gore said. “And, yeah, [Nola’s single] was awesome. You couldn’t write it any better.”
Aaron got into town on Wednesday night, and he spent practically all of his spare time at Austin’s place. But prior to the game, Austin was quick to note they “haven’t said a word about baseball.”
That’s bound to change, now that they have something fairly relevant to talk about. Though, after the game, Austin had nothing but praise for his younger brother.
“Glad we got the win, but then your brother gets the loss,” Austin said. “He pitched an unbelievable game. It’s fun to watch him. There’s no doubt about it. He’s done it twice to us. He threw seven innings, threw eight innings last year. What a performance by him.”
Austin’s go-ahead single will be a highlight the Nola family remembers for years. But it didn’t come from nowhere. Lately, the Padres backstop has begun to heat up at the plate, as he and Jorge…
Read More News: Bro! Austin Nola’s 1st hit off brother Aaron is a game-winner