After becoming the second team in 20 years to blow a 5+ run lead in the World Series, the Astros were out for revenge in Game 2. Framber Valdez and the Houston bullpen provided a pitching masterclass to silence the Phillies, 5-2, and level the series at one game apiece heading to Philadelphia.
World Series Game 2
Philadelphia Phillies 2, Houston Astros 5
(Series tied, 1-1)
Just as they did in the first game, the Astros jumped out to an early lead. Jose Altuve, Jeremy Peña, and Yordan Alvarez led off the first with back-to-back-to-back doubles off Zack Wheeler to put a quick two-spot on the board. A throwing error from Edmundo Sosa on a Yuli Gurriel later in the frame gifted the Astros the early 3-0 lead.
Again mirroring their performance from the first game, the Astros extended their lead to five runs before the Phillies could get their first run on the board. Altuve led off the fifth with a single, but this time, Wheeler retired Peña and Alvarez to put himself an out away from a clean inning. Instead, he fell behind Alex Bregman 2-0 before serving up a hanging slider that the Astros’ third baseman crushed off the facade in left-center to push the Houston lead to 5-0. It was his third home run this postseason as he continues a red-hot tear — 12-for-38 with nine runs driven in and a .998 OPS.
Many expected the Phillies to require four lights-out starts from their two ace pitchers — Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler — to have a chance in this series. Instead, the pair have surrendered five runs each in Games 1 and 2, with the Phillies offense only capable of bailing out their starter in Game 1. Wheeler ended his night giving up five runs (four earned) in five innings on six hits and three walks against only three strikeouts.
Framber Valdez on the other hand continued his domination of opposition lineups this postseason. He induced 15 swings and misses including nine on the curveball and induced a pair of well-timed GIDPs. His final line on the night saw him give up a run on four hits and three walks against nine strikeouts as he held the potent Phillies lineup at bay for 6.1 sterling innings.
That one run arrived in the seventh inning with Nick Castellanos leading off with a double. He advanced to third on an Alec Bohm groundout before being driven in by Jean Segura via sac fly. It was pretty much smooth sailing from there, with neither team scoring until the Phillies added a consolation run in the ninth when Alec Bohm clubbed a one-out double before coming home on a Yuli Gurriel fielding error to bring us to our final score, 5-2.
World Series Game 3: Lance McCullers Jr. vs. Noah Syndergaard
Thus, the Astros managed to avoid the same fate as in Game 1, when they squandered a 5-0 lead to fall, 6-5. Both teams have an offday for travel as the series heads to Philadelphia for three games. The starting pitcher for Game 3 were announced late, after the end of Game 2.
There was some thought that the Phillies might turn to normal third starter Ranger Suárez despite throwing 11 pitches in the Game 1 victory, but instead, manager Rob Thomson will give the ball to trade deadline acquisition Noah Syndergaard. He has World Series experience of course, but this is quite a different version of Thor than the flamethrowing rookie he was with the Mets in 2015. Syndergaard doesn’t have the velocity that he once did and pitched about league-average ball between the Angels and Phillies this year, posting a 3.94 ERA (103 ERA+) and 3.83 FIP with good control (5% BB%) but only 95 strikeouts in 134.2 innings.
Syndergaard has only made a few appearances this postseason, but he did threw three innings of one-run ball while starting the bullpen-led Game 4 clincher over the Braves in the NLDS. Expect a similarly short leash in Philly for World Series Game 3. Back with the Angels, Syndergaard had a good season debut against Houston on April 9th with 5.1 shutout innings, though the Astros got to him for three runs on three hits and four walks in four innings on July 12th.
As for the Astros, Lance McCullers Jr. last pitched in the series-clinching Game 4 of the ALCS. The Yankees actually had decent success against him, putting up four runs (three earned) on eight hits in five innings. His only other appearance this postseason went much better, as he shutout the Mariners through six innings yielding just two hits against seven strikeouts. McCullers missed the first four-and-a-half months of the season while recovering from a right flexor tendon strain but dominated the Phillies in his final start of the regular season, going six innings allowing a run on six hits and a walk against five strikeouts. In eight starts, the righty went 4-2 with a 2.27 ERA (171 ERA+), 3.49 FIP, and 50 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.
Grabbing a crucial comeback victory in the series opener gives the Phillies a chance to win the Fall Classic in front of their home fans. The Citizens Bank Park crowd will be a cacophony from the first pitch as they try to will their team to its first championship in 14 years.