WASHINGTON — Aaron Nola has the requisite rest to be eligible to pitch in the All-Star Game, but the Phillies ace wasn't under consideration to start for the National League on Tuesday night.
Washington Nationals righthander Max Scherzer was tabbed to start for the second consecutive year and the third time overall. Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts selected Scherzer over New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom, who will be the first pitcher out of the bullpen for the NL.
"I think for me, you look at the performances by both guys, and I think that they are very comparable in the league and clearly ahead of the rest, in my opinion," Roberts said. "Then you look at why we're all here, and it's for the fans. And so, I think when you sort of take in everything — the location, the ballpark, this great city — for me, the tiebreaker was the ballpark. It's trying to make the game bigger than all of us."
Scherzer, the two-time defending NL Cy Young Award winner, is having another stellar season. He has a 2.41 ERA in 20 starts and leads the league with 182 strikeouts in 134 2/3 innings. He also hasn't pitched since Thursday.
DeGrom has even more rest; his last start was Wednesday night against the Phillies. He leads the league with a 1.68 ERA in 19 starts and has 149 strikeouts in 123 1/3 innings.
The Phillies could have given Nola an extra day of rest and had him start Sunday in Miami. But that would have prevented him from pitching in the All-Star Game. Nola, who has a 2.30 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 129 innings, started Saturday instead, taking a 2-0 loss, and said he's hoping to pitch on what would be his normal side day between starts.
"I'm definitely ready to throw," Nola said.
It's the first All-Star Game for Nola, who has been joined in Washington by close family. Nola said he was looking forward to chatting up his fellow NL pitchers in the outfield during batting practice Monday before Phillies teammate Rhys Hoskins competed in the Home Run Derby.
If there's an American League hitter that Nola is hoping to face, it would be Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, who roomed with Nola at Louisiana State University.
"He was a good roommate, he really was," Nola said. "Always high energy. When you were just chilling, he'd always put the music up on high, just a kind of guy like that."
Nola and Bregman were teammates for two seasons in Baton Rouge. The Phillies drafted Nola with the seventh overall pick in 2014, and the Astros grabbed Bregman with the second overall selection in 2015.
Bregman said of Nola: "He was a very routine-based, simple guy. He wants one thing, and that's to get on the mound and get you out. He's fun to play defense behind."
Two years ago, Charlie Morton made four starts for the Phillies before blowing out a hamstring and missing the rest of the season. Now, the Astros righthander is an all-star for the first time.
A postseason hero for the Astros in October, Morton is 11-2 with a 2.96 ERA in 19 starts. It's quite a turnaround for a 34-year-old who has a 4.27 ERA in 205 career starts over 11 seasons with four teams.
And to hear Morton tell it, it all began with a change in his workout routine in the offseason before that truncated year in Philadelphia.
"I came to spring training, and I felt like my arm was moving just so easily," Morton said. "I looked up to see how hard I was throwing, and I was throwing hard. My stuff was moving, my curveball was spinning, and I was really excited about that year. I was really excited about 2016, because I really liked being in Philly. I liked being with that group, younger guys, and unfortunately, it didn't work out. I got injured, had surgery, and missed the rest of the year."