3 keys for Phillies to take command of World Series
PHILADELPHIA -- Tuesday will be fun.
It is Game 3 of the World Series. It could be crazy at Citizens Bank Park. But then, Phillies fans have been losing their minds since Rhys Hoskins spiked his bat after smashing a three-run home run in Game 3 of the National League Division Series.
The Phillies and Astros split the first two games of the World Series. The Phillies won Game 1, 6-5, engineering one of the biggest comebacks in World Series history. The Astros won Game 2, 5-2, reminding everybody why they won 106 games in the regular season, effortlessly scoring five runs (four earned) in five innings against Zack Wheeler.
In best-of-seven postseason series that are tied at 1, the Game 3 winner has won the series 68 of 98 times (69%).
Here are three keys for the Phillies to take command of this series in Philadelphia:
1. Revamped rotation sets tone
While Monday’s postponement didn’t alter the Astros’ pitching plans for Games 3 and 4, the Phillies’ rotation will now have a different look for the remainder of the Series.
Instead of using Noah Syndergaard in Game 3 as originally planned, the Phils will turn to Ranger Suárez on regular rest. They will then start Aaron Nola on regular rest in Game 4 (instead of Game 5).
That not only gives the Phillies a pitching upgrade for the first two games in Philadelphia, but it also splits potential starts by Suárez and Syndergaard, each of whom would likely need significant innings from the bullpen behind them. Syndergaard is a candidate to start Game 5, giving Wheeler additional rest, if he’s not needed in relief in either Game 3 or 4. Plus, it lines up Suárez to start a potential Game 7 on regular rest, if needed.
In other words, the reshuffling helps manager Rob Thomson map out an easier path to 27 outs in Games 3 and 4, while also clearing up Philadelphia’s pitching plans if the Series goes the distance.
2. Keep pressing the right buttons
Thomson has been making the right moves throughout the postseason. Sometimes he makes them by doing nothing (i.e. not moving Kyle Schwarber or Hoskins out of the 1-2 spots, despite pleas from fans after the first four postseason games). Thomson has done a fantastic job using his bullpen. It could be pushing left-hander José Alvarado and right-hander Seranthony Domínguez for extra outs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, or getting uber-aggressive and using Alvarado in the fifth inning and Suárez in the seventh inning in Game 1 of the World Series.
While Game 3 figures to be less of a bullpen game with Suárez starting in place of Syndergaard, Thomson may still lean heavily on his ‘pen in the coming days, especially with the benefit of two consecutive days off on Sunday and Monday.
After all, Suárez's past two appearances have come out of the ‘pen, including a scoreless two-thirds of an inning in Game 1 against the Astros. He hasn't started a game since Oct. 21, when he threw only 68 pitches over five innings against the Padres in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.
Nola, meanwhile, hasn’t made it out of the fifth inning in either of his past two outings. He allowed six runs over 4 2/3 innings in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Padres, then was tagged for five runs in 4 1/3 innings in Game 1 of the Fall Classic vs. the Astros.
With Suárez unlikely to pitch deep into Game 3 and given Nola’s recent struggles, it will be important for Thomson and pitching coach Caleb Cotham to choose the right pitchers for the right spots, and then have those hurlers perform as needed.
3. Keep the crowd in it
This is no disrespect to St. Louis, Atlanta, San Diego and Houston, but crowds in those ballparks have been tame compared to Citizens Bank Park this month. The Phillies are 21-9 (.700) in the postseason at the Bank. It is the best home record in the postseason for any team in any park (minimum 20 games). It is better than the Mets at Shea Stadium (26-13, .667) and the Cardinals at Busch Stadium II (35-18, .660).
So how do the Phillies keep the crowd in it? First, don’t let the Astros take a sizable early lead and hold onto it. (The Phillies started to chip away at their 5-0 deficit in Game 1 in the fourth inning.) A big hit or two early can rile up the crowd. A bomb from Bryce Harper, Schwarber, Hoskins (or anybody really) would take the edge off.
The Phillies’ home-field advantage is a real thing. A Braves player told Hoskins in the NLDS that he had never seen the Bank like that before. Back in the 2008 World Series, Jayson Werth told a similar story about a Tampa Bay player. Werth said he knew then that the Rays were cooked.
Philly was in their heads.
“Philly is coming,” Nick Castellanos said.