After four days without baseball, the World Series finally began as the Astros and Phillies met in Houston for Game 1 on Friday night. While as Yankees’ fans, none of us are particularly thrilled that the season is still going without the Yankees in the mix, the World Series is still the World Series, and it produced an extremely memorable game to kick things off.
World Series Game 1
Philadelphia Phillies 6, Houston Astros 5 (10 innings)
(PHI leads 1-0)
The Astros got off to a big start, mostly courtesy of Kyle Tucker. He hit a solo home run in the second inning and a three-run run shot in the third, which along with a Martín Maldonado RBI single, got Houston out to a early lead.
However, the Phillies then began to fight back in the fourth. They got three runs back in the third on RBI hits from Nick Castellanos and Alec Bohm, before evening things up in the fifth. With one out and two on in the fifth, J.T. Realmuto delivered a big double that tied the game.
Neither starter, Justin Verlander and Aaron Nola, made it past the fifth inning, turning the game into a battle of the bullpens. That seemed to give an advantage to Houston, but Rob Thomson and the Phillies got super aggressive and used expected Game 3 starter Ranger Suárez out of the ‘pen.
The game eventually went into extra innings, but not before a game-changing moment in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs in the frame, Jose Altuve singled on a ball that just managed to drop in between a couple Phillies fielders. During the next at-bat, he stole second, just barely beating out the throw and tag, on a play that was reviewed and was insanely close. With the winning run now in scoring position, Jeremy Peña hit a pop fly that also looked destined to drop in for a hit. Instead, Nick Castellanos came up with a game-saving sliding catch.
It ended up being even more important than it seemed at the time. Leading off the next inning, Realmuto took a pitch just over the wall in right field to give the Phillies their first lead of the game.
After missing out on a chance to add some insurance, the Phillies sent in David Robertson to try and shut things down in the bottom of the 10th. While he got Yordan Alvarez to strike out, Alex Bregman then doubled off the wall to give Houston a huge lifeline. Robertson then got the big out of Tucker before issuing a walk to Yuli Gurriel. A wild pitch then allowed the Astros to put both the tying and winning runs in scoring position. Robertson eventually got out of it, because Houdini is still Houdini.
World Series Game 2: Framber Valdez vs. Zack Wheeler
Houston is set to give the start to Valdez in the second game of the series. In his lone start in the ALCS against the Yankees, he allowed two unearned runs on four hits, while striking out nine in seven innings. He was fairly dominant, but the Yankees’ offense wasn’t exactly in a great place at that time. He wasn’t quite as good in the ALDS. In Game 2 against the Mariners, he was knocked out after 5.2 innings, having allowed two runs on four hits and three walks. He wasn’t bad that day either, but the Astros got out of a bases loaded jam to prevent help his line end up still solid.
As for the Phillies, they’re set to turn to Wheeler, who has been excellent for them so far this postseason. He’s made four starts so far in the playoffs, and has put up a 1.78 ERA in 25.1 innings. His best start of October so far came in Game 1 of the NLCS when, like tonight, he came in on five days rest. Against the Padres that day, he threw seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit and on walk, while striking out eight.
Martin Maldonado, Trey Mancini, and Christian Vázquez are the only Astros who’ve previously faced Wheeler. All have only faced him in just a handful of at-bats, but only Mancini has recorded a hit. As for Valdez, he actually started against the Phillies on the final day of the regular season. He struck out 10 in five shutout innings, but it was a Phillies’ lineup that saw some key pieces rested ahead of the playoffs.
World Series games are always huge, but it’s now going to be specially crucial for Houston, as they’re not going to want to go to Philadelphia down 2-0 before a couple games in front of a raucous home crowd.