The Houston Astros are now 1 win away from their second world series title since 2017. The Astros are in their fourth appearance in the series in the last six years and are playing great baseball against the Phillies who are making their first appearance since 2009. There is a 19-game difference between these two teams in the regular season as the Astros won their division easily and were the #1 seed in the AL, while the Phillies' 87 wins were good enough for the 6th and final spot in the NL race.
The Astros have won the last two games in the series by a score of 8-2. They've gotten exceptional work from their starters as Verlander went 5 full innings with 1 ER and Christian Javier went 6 with 0 ER on Wednesday in their 5-0 shutout in game 4. The Phillies lack of bats in the last two days have been the story, as superstar Bryce Harper is 1-for-4 with 3 walks in these games with 0 RBIs and 0 runs. Taking Harper out of the equation has been huge for the Astros and has let them worry about the other options on this deep Phillies' roster.
The Astros' bats on the other hand have been cracking! Their three-headed monster of Altuve, Bregman and new addition Jeremy Pena went 6-for-10 last night while scoring all three runs and grabbing 2 of the 3 RBIs.
The series will head back to Houston for a pivotal game 6. The Astros will trot out Framber Valdez who got the first win of the series for the Astros in Game 2, going 6.1 innings and giving 1 ER and only 4 hits. Facing off with Valdez is the Phillies ace Zach Wheeler, whose appearance in game 2 was very poor, giving up 4 ER and 3 walks on 6 hits in only 5 innings pitched. Wheeler will no doubt be looking to make up for this performance on Saturday and play more like the regular season version of him who had a 2.82 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.
The key for the Astros to win this thing at home on Saturday is to continue this defensive masterclass over the last two days. Easier said than done against an offense like the Phillies who had the 8th best batting average, 7th most home runs and 6 most hits. Most of that production can be kept at bay if they continue to minimize Bryce Harper's bat with walks and breaking balls. Harper is backpacking this Phillies team in the playoffs, starting all 16 games and putting up a ridiculous .373 average.
When splitting Harper's stats between wins and losses however, you can clearly see that when the Astros walk Harper more, he gets out of his zone and struggles. In the Phillies' three losses, Harper is 1-for-8 with 3 walks. He has zero RBIs, runs or home runs in those games. Whereas in the Phillies 2 wins, he's only walked once and is batting .375 with 1 run, 1 home run and 2 RBIs. What's even better for them is that Harper had his worst game of the series in Valdez' first appearance, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout. The key for the Astros is clearly to have the bases clean when Harper comes to bat and walk him. The rest has figured it out thus far and it doesn't seem like much will change.
The key to victory for the Phillies will be a couple of things, the first is obviously to object to Harper's weakness and get runners on base before he gets up to stop the Astros from walking him at all. The first three in the Phillies lineup are Schwarber, Hoskins and Realmuto. Schwarber has been the most consistent and best batter of all four men in this series with a .409 OBP and a walk every game isn't the problem and needs ro continue being the leadoff hitter. Hoskins and Realmuto are the real problem, especially over the last three games where they are a combined 1-26 with 0 walks and 15 strikeouts. The Phillies bats will depend on these two turning around.
Lastly, the Phillies need consistency in pitching. Zach Wheeler takes the mound and with the Phils' bullpen depleting, needs to have a good game tomorrow. If Wheeler can go back to his roots and get grounders against this Astros' lineup he'll have a good chance.
Tomorrow is Game 6 and the Astros are favored to win early. We've talked a lot about the Phillies in this article because the Astros have been electric and consistent besides a hiccup in game 3. The Astros have played well all over the field and their key to success is easy. Keep doing what you're doing. Our prediction is that the Astros will win this game and finally get the ring they have been looking for since the Garbage Can scandal that came to light in 2019.
Check out fansonlysportz.com for more sports media content posted daily.
Make sure to stay btuned as we continue coverage of the 2022 World Series.