World Series 2022: Four things the Phillies need to come back against the Astros in Houston

The Houston Astros are one win away from the franchise’s second World Series championship and the Philadelphia Phillies are one loss away from their sixth World Series loss. The Phillies won the World Series in 1980 and 2008. They lost the World Series in 1915, 1950, 1983, 1993 and 2009. A loss in games 6 or 7 adds 2022 to the list.

“I think it’s ‘staying the course,'” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said Friday when asked about his message to his team. “We played baseball very well. I don’t think there’s any reason to panic. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and focus on the little things. I always tell them to focus on the things. small things and big things. don’t try to do too much, be yourself, be good at batting, play good defense, throw strikes, execute pitches, that kind of stuff.

The Astros hold a 3-2 series lead and head home to Minute Maid Park for Game 6 and, if necessary, Game 7. They’re in control, though you don’t have to look far ahead in back to see the last time they were in this same situation; in 2019, the Astros took a 3-2 series lead for Games 6 and 7 but gave up both games at the Washington nationals. The last victory is always the hardest.

Truth be told, it’s a small miracle that the World Series isn’t over yet. The Astros took a 5-0 lead in three of the first four games and threw a no combined hit in Game 4. The Phillies were only outscored 18-17 in the series, although there were times when the series felt like a lag. It’s a credit to Philadelphia’s tenacity and ingenuity that they still play.

The 2019 Nationals showed it was possible to go to Houston, win two games, and clinch a championship. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, though. Far from there. Here are four things that need to happen for the Phillies to have their best shot at coming back to win the World Series.

1. Get a dominant start from Wheeler

The obvious statement is obvious, but the comeback starts with the guy on the mound. The Nationals made their comeback in 2019 thanks in large part to Stephane Strasbourgwho provided what turned out to be a World Series MVP-winning performance in Game 6. Strasburg held Houston to two runs in 8 1/3 innings, sparing the bullpen and giving offense time to take a lead.

Zack Wheeler had a tough outing in Game 2, giving up five runs (four earned) over five innings, including three runs to just six batters in the game. Wheeler’s speed also went down a bit, and the Phillies refused to put him on normal rest in Game 5 just to give him some extra rest and make sure he was in the best position physically possible next. time he takes the mound.

“Yeah, I think the extra rest always helps,” Wheeler said Friday. “But the bullpen felt good. I think we’re on the right track.”

Heading into Game 2, Wheeler was nailed in four playoff starts, throwing to a 1.78 ERA and .51 WHIP in 25 1/3 innings. He’s also had a great regular season, essentially matching his 2021 Cy Young runner-up performance on a fee basis, albeit in fewer innings due to some nagging injuries. Make no mistake, Wheeler has been a front-row starter for three years now.

The Phillies need Wheeler to dominate Game 6 like Strasburg did three years ago. It’s really hard to see them making a return to the show, with Wheeler being anything but excellent. All hope begins with him.

“I think you just throw in your strengths and just make the adjustments you need,” Wheeler said on Friday when asked what he took away from Game 2. “They’re a good team, but I hope I can control the ball a bit better this time and hopefully that puts me in a better position.”

2. Harper and Schwarber continue to do damage

Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber are a combined 8 for 33 (.242) in the World Series, which doesn’t look that impressive until you realize the rest of the Phillies are hitting .156. Harper and Schwarber are Tony Gwynn, comparatively. Additionally, they hit three of the team’s seven home runs and combined nine walks for a .419 on-base percentage. Harper and Schwarber were a two-man army on the attack.

The Astros had a clear plan of attack with Harper, challenging with fastballs upstairs because the belt high and below is his nitro zone. This is where it does the most damage. Harper will hit singles and walk around on elevated heaters, and it looks like the Astros are willing to live with that. They don’t want him to do any major damage. Look at the pitches he’s seen in the World Series:

The Astros fed Bryce Harper high fastballs in all series.

baseball scholar

That purple dot in the middle? It’s Harper’s two-run homer against Lance McCullers Jr. in the first inning of Game 3. That’s definitely not where you want to throw it. The Astros have challenged Harper with upstairs fastballs throughout the series and he’s always been productive, just not as productive as in previous rounds. He was simply brilliant rather than legendary.

The thing is, Harper and Schwarber have been Philadelphia’s two most productive hitters in the one-mile World Series, and I think Thomson should consider hitting them 1-2 in the lineup. Right now, Schwarber hits the first shot and Harper’s cleanup. Veteran Will Smith is the only southpaw in the Houston bullpen and appears to be outside manager Dusty Baker’s Circle of Trust™. If Baker wants to go to Smith over one of his many big righties against Schwarber and Harper, so be it. I think beating them 1-2 and making sure they get the most appearances puts the Phillies in the best position to win.

Either way, Schwarber and Harper need to keep producing at a high level for a comeback to happen. One or both of these guys having a quiet Game 6 or Game 7 probably means the death of the Phillies. In other words, the team’s top two hitters must continue to be their top two hitters.

3. Get Something of the supporting cast

Among the hitters, JT RealmutoThe Game 1 performance was the best of any player on either World Series team so far. He hit a game-tying two-run double to erase the early 5-0 deficit, then hit the game-winning home run in the tenth inning. These are two of the five biggest hits in the series by added probability of winning the championship..

Since that great performance in Game 1, Realmuto is 1 of 17 with 11 strikeouts. Nick Castellanos is 3 for 20 with eight strikeouts in the World Series. Rhys Hoskins is 3 for 21 with nine strikeouts. Those three are a combined 9 for 62 (.145) with 28 strikeouts in the series and that includes Game 1 of Realmuto. The Astros have largely shut them down.

To be fair, Realmuto and Castellanos contributed defensively (Castellanos has been one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball in recent years and he suddenly looks like Mookie Bets with all those slippery holds) but good defense alone isn’t enough to beat Houston. The Phillies badly need Castellanos, Hoskins and Realmuto to attack and support Harper and Schwarber. There’s no way to a return – zero – without these three succeeding in games 6 and 7.

4. Be a little lucky

When you’ve got your back against the wall like the Phillies, there’s no shame in asking the baseball gods for a little help. Maybe a ball call/limit hit goes your way on a crucial shot, or a ground ball hugs the line and stays fair. That sort of thing. Every World Series winner in history has benefited from good fortune somewhere along the line and the Phillies could use that right now. It’s better to be lucky than good, but it’s better to be lucky and good.

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