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Yankees Rivalry Roundup: World Series preview

This one’s for all the marbles.

Philadelphia Phillies v Houston Astros Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

I took a nice, easy three days off from writing and thinking about baseball, but the World Series is unavoidable. Both teams dumped their opponents with relative ease, as the Phillies eliminated the Padres in five games and the Astros of course sweeping the Yankees. While they charted very different regular season courses, each enters the series on a tear, with Houston yet to lose this postseason, and Philadelphia running through the NL bracket with a 9-2 record.

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Houston Astros

Game 1: Aaron Nola (PHI) vs. Justin Verlander (SD)

Minute Maid Park (Houston, Tx.)

First pitch: Friday Oct 28, 8:00pm ET (FOX)

Game 2: Zack Wheeler (PHI) vs. Framber Valdez (HOU)

Minute Maid Park (Houston, Tx.)

First pitch: Saturday Oct. 29, 8pm ET (FOX)

Game 3: Ranger Suárez (PHI) vs. Cristan Javier (HOU)

Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia, PA)

First pitch: Monday Oct. 31, 8pm ET (FOX)

Game 4: Bullpen (PHI) vs. Lance McCullers Jr. (HOU)

Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia, PA)

First pitch: Tuesday Nov. 1, 8pm ET (FOX)

Game 5 (if necessary): Wednesday Nov. 2 in Philadelphia, 8pm ET (FOX)

Game 6 (if necessary): Friday Nov. 4 in Houston, 8:00pm ET (FOX)

Game 7 (if necessary): Saturday Nov. 5 in Houston, 8:00pm ET (FOX)

Right off the top, this looks like a blowout win for Houston. The AL’s best team finished 19 wins better than Philadelphia, with a +219 run differential against a +62 for the Phils. ZiPS gives them the nod in this series as well, with a 58 percent to 42 percent chance of winning. It’s certainly an uphill climb for the Phillies, but I think the series might end up being closer than that.

First of all, the ability to line Nola and Wheeler up with plenty of rest, giving them four starts in this series, hedges some of the risk of a thinner pitching staff relative to their AL opponents. The Astros still have the advantage on the mound thanks to their depth, but Wheeler and Nola can and will be expected to carry the load for one more series. If they can steal one of those first two games in Houston, it’s not a bad outlook for Philly.

And then there’s the Bryce Harper factor. The two-time MVP appeared in just 99 games in the regular season, posting a respectable 134 wRC+ while never really looking like himself. That’s changed in the Phillies’ postseason run, where Harper will enter Game 1 sporting a ludicrous 1.351 OPS. He is good enough to win a game all by himself, but he may have to do just that to take down an Astros juggernaut.

Philly’s entire postseason has been an underdog story, and they’re facing their toughest challenge yet. The Astros have a better staff, working on just as much rest, and boast an offense that was slightly better than the Phillies’ deep, powerful lineup. If I had to pick, I’d still pick Houston, but Philadelphia’s no pushover. Taking one of those first games in Houston is imperative to make this series competitive.

Editor’s note: If you’re curious, you can find our staff-wide World Series predictions here.