This story was written before Game 3 of the World Series was rescheduled from Monday to Tuesday night due to inclement weather.
The first two games of the World Series provided a week’s worth of drama, and we could be in for more as the series moves to Philadelphia. A group of MLB.com analysts gathered to assess where things stand heading into Game 3.
Alyson Footer, editor/moderator: The World Series is tied 1-1 as we enter the Philadelphia portion of what, in my view, has been a wildly entertaining first two games. As impressive as the Phillies have been in keeping pace with a Houston team that was undefeated through two rounds of the postseason, I still think the Astros have the advantage. What is your key storyline heading into Game 3?
Todd Zolecki, Phillies beat reporter: For the Phillies, it's Noah Syndergaard and what happens after that. Syndergaard hasn't thrown more than 35 pitches since Game 4 of the National League Division Series, when he pitched three innings. They really, really need him to go 3-4 innings in Game 3. Because if he goes anything less than that, it'll really stress the bullpen. And they might need more of the same with Ranger Suárez in Game 4.
Brian McTaggart, Astros beat reporter: I agree. The Astros' pitching depth should really start to benefit them from here. They'll start Lance McCullers Jr. -- an ace-type level guy who's made 11 career playoff starts -- in Game 3, and Cristian Javier in Game 4. Javier might have the best stuff out of anybody on the staff with a fastball that hitters have a hard time picking up and a sweeping slider. They have the advantage the next two games when it comes to starting pitching, with baseball's best bullpen coming in behind it.
Footer: I know the Phillies were happy with a split on the road, but I’m wondering if they really needed to win both, given how much of a dropoff there is after their two top starters. I think the differences between the two teams are about to become a lot more pronounced in the next two games.
Mark Feinsand, executive reporter: I would have thought that Game 3 would be crucial to the Phillies a few days ago, but that was with the idea that Suárez would start Game 3. With Syndergaard starting what will essentially be a bullpen game, I think they can lose it and still feel good about where they are. To me, Philly needs to win one of the next two and it’s anybody’s series.
Feinsand: Altuve has been a postseason stud his whole career. You knew he was going to break out at some point. Yordan is still terrifying every time he steps to the plate.
McTaggart: Altuve hitting a first-pitch fastball into left field for a double to start Game 2 was the moment all Astros fans have been waiting for. He's an aggressive first-pitch hitter and really sets the tone at the top of the order. He wound up with three hits in Game 2 and suddenly looks like the Altuve of old. It's amazing they swept through the American League Division Series and AL Championship Series while he went 0-fer.
Zolecki: Phillies manager Rob Thomson had a great line about Altuve today: "Whether he's good or bad, I kind of look at him like he's going to be good all the time because that's just, he's a good hitter. He's got three batting titles, and I don't think you can, at any time, no matter what he's doing, think of him as just an out because he's not. At some point, he's going to get hits because he's a good hitter."
He's broken out, but the Phillies will keep attacking him like they have.
Feinsand: Thomson was with the Yankees when the Altuve postseason legend began. He knows.
McTaggart: Teams are being very careful with Alvarez after he hit game-winning homers to beat the Mariners in Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS, but at some point he's going to have to do some damage. Alex Bregman is swinging the bat very well behind him, so the Phillies will have to pick their spots with him.
Footer: Speaking of terrifying players, I'm very intrigued to see how Bryce Harper responds to the atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park. For someone who thrives in such settings, and seems pretty intoxicated by the entire aura of the postseason, this could be a fun few days for him.
I do think if the Phillies are going to have a shot at this, it'll be because Harper goes off at the plate.
McTaggart: The Astros have done a good job containing the two big left-handed bats, Harper and Kyle Schwarber, and they need to keep doing that. McCullers has been very good against lefties this year, so that's a good place to start.
Feinsand: I think this ballpark might be the closest thing we see to the “12th Man” advantage the Seahawks have in the NFL. I have spoken with some friends in Philly and apparently the city is going insane. Secondary market ticket prices are sky high and that place is going to be NUTS.
Harper has waited his entire life for this series. The way the Phillies don’t want to let Yordan beat them, I would be pitching Harper the same way if I was the Astros.
Zolecki: I saw a great tweet from Sarah Langs. The Phillies are 21-9 at Citizens Bank Park in the postseason, which is the best postseason record for a home team at any ballpark (minimum 20 games). Harper definitely feeds off the crowd. The fans here have been nuts, and they're hungry for a winner. The Astros can quiet the crowd, of course. But so far, nobody has done it.
McTaggart: Harper, the Most Valuable Player of the NLCS, went 0-for-4 in Game 2 and is 2-for-8 in the World Series without an extra-base hit or an RBI. Schwarber is 2-for-7 in the World Series without an extra-base hit or an RBI.
Footer: So they're due!
Feinsand: Just like Altuve was due, so are Harper and Schwarber.
Though Schwarber did win America a taco, so he’s had a good series so far.
McTaggart: He's my leading candidate for MVP.
Zolecki: Harper, Rhys Hoskins and Schwarber have 1.400 OPS or higher at home this postseason. They like the vibes here or something.
McTaggart: One thing I'll say about the Astros, they're a tremendous road team. They've won 22 playoff games on the road since 2017, five more than anyone else. They've won a lot of big games in crazy environments in October, like Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.
Feinsand: Unlike Yankee Stadium, I don’t think CBP will quiet down if the Phillies fall behind by a couple runs. The Yankees fans never believed their team could come back against the Astros, while the Phillies showed in Game 1 they absolutely can.
Footer: Let’s talk managers. The players have to be fired up about Thomson’s managing in Games 1 and 2, even if they fell short in Game 2. If there’s any truth to psychological advantages being a thing, especially in the postseason, you kind of feel like the Phillies are still very much in this, if only because they know their skipper is pushing the right buttons. We've gone over how Dusty Baker's decisions in Game 1 might have cost them -- is there a Phillies edge here?
Feinsand: Game 3 will be a big one for Thomson, who will effectively be managing a bullpen game. Dusty doesn’t have to worry about that since his rotation is four arms deep for the series.
McTaggart: Game 1 wasn't Dusty's finest hour, leaving Justin Verlander in a tad too long and going with Luis Garcia over Ryne Stanek. Plus, he probably should have hit for the struggling Trey Mancini an at-bat earlier. This team is built to where there's not a whole lot any manager should be able to do to mess it up. Almost every bullpen arm is a dude. The lineup doesn't change. It comes down to performance, but if there are some key tactical moves to be made, that's where Baker hasn't always pushed the right buttons.
Zolecki: Nick Castellanos said it best after Game 1, when asked about Thomson: "I trust anything that man does." I've covered a few managers over the years, and I've got to say he seems to press the right buttons the most. The players really believe in his moves, too. There's a lot of faith there. I mean, bringing in José Alvarado in the fifth in Game 1 was bold, but it worked. Bringing Suárez in the seventh inning in Game 1 was bold, but it worked.