HOUSTON -- It’s Bryce’s first dance and Dusty’s latest chance. It’s an October upstart trying to take down the established October elite.
And it all gets started Friday night, deep in the heart of Texas.
The Astros and Phillies enter Game 1 at Minute Maid Park on opposite ends of the postseason extreme, with Houston having been the American League’s No. 1 seed and now having advanced to the Fall Classic in four of the past six seasons. With Dusty Baker in pursuit of the World Series ring as a manager that has eluded him in 11 previous trips to the postseason and two previous trips to the Fall Classic, the Astros are a perfect 7-0 in this postseason.
“If I win one, I want to win two,” Baker said. “So you got to win one first, and then we'll work on number two at that time.”
Collectively, the Astros are seeking a World Series crown that might not extinguish all the anguish over their 2017 trash-can-enabled title but would certainly cement them as the organization that owns October more than any other in MLB right now.
The Phillies, on the other hand, squeaked into October for the first time since 2011, with the help of the newly created third Wild Card spot. With Bryce Harper, their bearded franchise face, doing as he said he’d do when he signed a massive free-agent pact with Philly, they have bashed their way past more celebrated squads to get to the World Series for the first time since back-to-back appearances in ‘08-09.
“We're excited to be here and grateful for the opportunity,” Harper said. “Excited to be able to go out there and play a great game.”
The Astros won 19 more games than the Phillies in the regular season -- the second-largest World Series matchup win disparity of all-time. But all that matters now, as Game 1 arrives, is that both clubs enter this Series with rested aces. Will Houston's recent experience be an edge or will Philadelphia pound its way to a championship that few could have seen coming? We’ll start to get an answer Friday night.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Game 1, which will air on FOX at 8 p.m. ET/7 CT, is scheduled for Friday.
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Who are the starting pitchers?
Phillies: Right-hander Aaron Nola (2-1, 3.12 ERA in the 2022 postseason) will start Game 1 in Houston. Nola pitched 6 2/3 perfect innings before allowing a couple hits against the Astros on Oct. 3 at Minute Maid Park, where the Phils clinched the third NL Wild Card spot.
Nola has been mostly rolling since then. He allowed one unearned run in 12 2/3 innings in his first two starts in the postseason before he got tagged for six runs in 4 2/3 innings in Game 2 of the National League Championship in San Diego. The Padres were on Nola’s fastball so much that the Phillies looked to see if he might have been tipping his pitches. He wasn’t. He just did not execute as needed against talented hitters. Nola will be well rested for Game 1, which is a good thing, because he is typically better with extra rest.
Astros: Justin Verlander (1-0, 6.30 ERA in the postseason) will start Game 1 in Houston. Verlander started Game 1 of the AL Division Series against the Mariners, giving up six runs and 10 hits in four innings, and pitched better in his Game 1 start in the AL Championship Series, allowing one run and three hits in six innings against the Yankees. His final regular-season start came Oct. 4 against the Phillies and he didn’t allow a hit in five innings, capping a regular season in which he was 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA and will likely win his third Cy Young Award. In Verlander's postseason career, he’s 15-11 with a 3.55 ERA in 33 games (32 starts), but he is 0-6 with a 5.68 ERA in seven World Series starts.
What are the starting lineups?
Phillies: Philadelphia entered the World Series with the top four hitters in its lineup swinging the bat well. Manager Rob Thomson has been pretty consistent with the Phils' lineup in the postseason: The only changes have come at center fielder and shortstop. Lefty hitters Brandon Marsh and Bryson Stott got the start against Verlander.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Phillies: The Phils’ bullpen has slowly come together late in the season, with Seranthony Domínguez and José Alvarado the top two options late in games. But Thomson also has used right-handers Zach Eflin and David Robertson in the ninth inning in the postseason. It really depends who is available and what the matchups look like. Behind those four are left-hander Brad Hand and righties Andrew Bellatti and Connor Brogdon. Noah Syndergaard is the potential No. 4 starter.
Astros: The Astros posted the best bullpen ERA in the regular season in the Major Leagues and the relief corps has pitched even better in the playoffs. Houston's relievers have allowed three runs -- all on solo homers -- and 14 hits while striking out 42 batters in 33 innings this postseason. Bryan Abreu, Héctor Neris, Rafael Montero and closer Ryan Pressly have emerged as Dusty Baker’s four main high-leverage bullpen arms, but there’s depth beyond that. Ryne Stanek, who had a 1.15 ERA in the regular season, has swing-and-miss stuff and the Astros still have two starters in the bullpen: José Urquidy, who hasn’t pitched yet in the playoffs, and Luis Garcia, whose only postseason outing was five scoreless innings in relief to close out Game 3 of the ALDS.
Any injuries of note?
Phillies: The Phils are healthy.
Who is hot and who is not?
Phillies: Harper is batting .419 with six doubles, five home runs, 11 RBIs and a 1.351 OPS in the postseason. He hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the eighth inning in Game 5 on Sunday to send Philadelphia to the World Series, earning the NLCS MVP for his efforts.
Schwarber is batting .368 with three homers, four RBIs and a 1.442 OPS in his past seven playoff games.
Hoskins is batting .269 with five homers, 11 RBIs and a 1.191 OPS in his past seven postseason games.
Astros: Peña hit .353 with two doubles, two homers and four RBIs to become the fifth rookie to win LCS MVP honors.
Gurriel is 11-for-30 (.367) and Bregman is 10-for-30 (.333) in the postseason.
Altuve, who started the playoffs 0-for-25, had a two-hit game in Game 4 of the ALCS.
Alvarez is 7-for-29 with two homers and eight RBIs in the postseason, but he was 3-for-14 in the ALCS.
Anything else fans might want to know?
• This is the Phillies’ first trip to the World Series since 2009, when they lost to the Yankees in six games.
• The Astros are 11-1 in October (regular season and postseason). The only team to beat them in that span? The Phillies, who won, 3-0, on Oct. 3 in Houston.
• The Astros and Phillies met once previously in the playoffs. That was in 1980, when Houston split the first two games of the best-of-five NLCS, won Game 3 and then dropped the final two games. Four of the five games went into extra innings.
• The Astros are 9-15 all-time in World Series games, having lost six of their past eight games in the Fall Classic. Houston is 3-9 all-time at home in the World Series, having lost six of its past seven World Series home games.