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Mid-World Series reactions: Phillies are phun

The lowest-seeded National League team to make the playoffs has surged to a surprising series lead over the 106-win Astros. But can they seal the upset?

MLB: World Series-Houston Astros at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

As just chronicled by Peter a little while ago, the Phillies took Game 3 of the World Series last night by a 7-0 score over the Astros. Philadelphia clobbered a bunch of homers and cruised to an easy victory to snatch the 2-1 lead. The Phillies are surprising in this series so far, leading an Astros ballclub that was 19 wins better in the regular season, and it’s been just as fun as it sounds. There is much to like in this series, as it’s the classic underdog versus the giant storyline. On top of that, Philadelphia certainly has the likeability factor over Houston, especially within the readership of this site.

In Game 1, Kyle Tucker and some well-placed singles got the ‘Stros up by five early. But by the fifth inning, the Phils had knotted it up at five. It stayed that way until the 10th, when J.T. Realmuto hit a go-ahead homer and old friend David Robertson closed out a nerve-wracking save. The Phillies and manager Rob Thomson went about this game with an admirable and necessary level of urgency. They went to all of their best options out of the ‘pen in Game 1, it worked, and they eventually took the lead on a home run. If they end up taking this series, that will likely need to be the formula.

Game 2 ended up going along perfectly with Houston’s own winning formula. Four pitches into the bottom of the first, they had three doubles and two runs off of Zack Wheeler. They got up 5-0 by the end of the fifth (a familiar score) but were able to maintain the lead this time. Their pitching didn’t let up, eventually winning 5-2 after the Phillies scraped a couple of runs across.

The third episode of this series featured everything the Phillies are about. They launched five home runs off of Lance McCullers Jr. as they clubbed their way to a surprisingly smooth W.

The Phillies hit their fair share of homers in a any circumstance, but a combination of McCullers evidently tipping his pitches, and Dusty Baker oddly leaving him in the game for five long balls despite a roll call of accomplished relievers at his disposal made the circumstances even better.

There probably aren’t many people arguing that the Phillies are a wholly better team than the Astros, but the top of their roster is no joke. A top four of Schwarber-Hoskins-Realmuto-Harper is more than formidable, and a Nola-Wheeler-Suárez top of the rotation is among the best around. If they want to win, they’ll have to utilize those strengths as much as possible, as it’s not the deepest roster. Depth is where Houston has the advantage, and the best of the best on their 26-man is just as good.

The nature of Philadelphia’s victory in Game 3 only helps them follow that strategy. Their sluggers powered them to a big lead, and they were able to stay away from their top arms in the bullpen (though José Alvarado did briefly warm up). Suárez gave them five scoreless innings, and the rest of the game was pieced together by Connor Brogdon, Kyle Gibson, Nick Nelson — yes, he’s around — and Andrew Bellatti. Thomson and company now head into Game 4 with a lead, Nola on the mound, and a fully-rested top of the bullpen.

On a purely vibe basis, the Phillies are a good time. They seem to have a lot of fun and hit a bunch of homers. That’s as good a recipe as any. Obviously, there is much to respect about the Astros as well (2017 notwithstanding), and their long run of dominance over the American League. They’re a relentless team with deep pitching and battle-tested players who rarely back down. The juxtaposition of two clubs’ respective ascents makes this series very intriguing.

This is maybe a tough watch for a lot of Yankees fans, however. The Astros, of course, beat the Yankees again en route to the series appearance, something they’ve made a habit of lately. And the Phillies are constructed in a way the Yankees should probably use more. They brought in good players, and get this, it made the team better. Perhaps most notably, is Bryce Harper, who came to Philly on a $330 million contract. Although the Yankees likely could have acquired his services, it is great to see him finally get his moment in the national spotlight.

The Astros are likely far too talented to go out in this series quietly. Remember that even in their Fall Classic defeats in 2019 and 2021, they brought the World Series back to Houston. But the Phillies are doing what they can and remain a perfect 6-0 at Citizens Bank Park this postseason. They needed to take one of the first two showdowns in Houston, which they did, and now have a chance to win at home if they win the next two games. Game 4 on Wednesday pits Cristian Javier against Aaron Nola, as the Astros look to tie things up at two, and Philly looks to take a commanding 3-1 lead.