World Series 2022: Philadelphia Phillies vs Houston Astros
How are they here?
After shaking off a mediocre start to the regular season, the Astros moved past their 11-11 start by May 1st to go 5.5 games clear of the Los Angeles Angels and 8 games clear of the Seattle Mariners by June 1st. By July 1st they had a double digit lead in their division and never relinquished their hold of the AL West.
Houston has mowed down the opposition in the postseason, sweeping the Mariners and Yankees in previous rounds. Losing Game 1 of the World Series against the Phillies was the first time the well-oiled Astros machine has shown any sign of weakness.
Philadelphia on the other hand looked like a remote prospect to make the playoffs when June came, as the Phillies were 22-29 and 12.5 games back in the NL East. During that confusing time they fired Joe Girardi with Rob Thompson becoming their interim manager. Since that season defining moment the Phillies put together a 65-46 record, fighting their way back into the Wild Card mix.
Philadelphia would eventually finish in the third Wild Card slot, setting up a series with the St. Louis Cardinals who they dispatched without too many problems. Two competitive series against the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres would eventually be closed out thanks to some incredible, clutch hitting and timely pitching.
How thing stand
The matchup between the Phillies and Astros is delicately poised after three games of the World Series. The series favors the Phillies 2-1 as we stay in Philadelphia for the next two games. Games 1 & 2 have offered glimpses into how each team is going to try and navigate their respective paths to postseason success.
The Phillies Game 1 triumph encapsulated what has been a winning postseason formula for this team. Falling behind 5-0 before the fourth inning began, they didn’t panic. Behind their explosive offense they managed to tag Justin Verlander - no mean feat - for five runs after five innings before the Phillies bullpen, which has been excellent since their early struggles during the regular season, were able to hold the Astros bats to zero runs the rest of the way. J.T. Realmuto’s home run in the 10th was an exclamation point showcasing the Phillies recipe for their surprising, yet successful postseason performance.
Houston’s Game 2 victory exemplified how the Astros have handled business during their postseason journey. Early runs put pressure on the opposition starting pitcher - in this case, Zack Wheeler - before shutting the Phillies dynamic bats on the strength of an excellent start by Framber Valdez. If the Astros maintain this level of pressure, they will live up their billing as favorites for the World Series.
“I’m running out of stuff to say about the guy,” Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins said on Tuesday night. “I don’t think you can write anything better. He’s the most talented player I’ve ever played with. It’s really cool to see him be The Guy. We’re used to see him be The Guy. But it’s cool to see him be The Guy on baseball’s biggest stage.”
In Phillies Game 3 victory on Tuesday evening, the team hit a World Series record tying five home runs in defeat of the Houston Astros 7-0, in the franchise’s most lopsided shutout victory in World Series history. This was the first time in World Series history that a team hit five home runs against a single pitcher, Astros starter Lance McCullers. One home run stood above them all, belonging to the star of the Phillies magical postseason run, Bryce Harper.
Harper is putting on a show during the postseason, hitting .382 with six home runs, 13 RBI’s and a scintillating 1.232 OPS. He has been setting the tone for the Phillies, showing how special of a hitter he truly is in his quest for a second World Series trophy. It has been 14 years since Philadelphia have been World Series champions, but they are here, two games away from a World Series title.
There will no doubt be some captivating drama from here on out, both teams have shown a propensity for excellence in their respective styles. The Astros have had the higher probability to win according to most models, however we shouldn’t overlook how dominant the Phillies have performed at home during the postseason (6-0 with a plus-27 run differential). If the Phillies build upon this success they could put some significant pressure on the Astros before (if) the series returns to Houston.