PHILADELPHIA — The Phillies have wrestled home field advantage in the World Series away from the Astros after splitting the first two games at Minute Maid Park on Friday and Saturday. That means the Astros need to win at least one of the next three games in what is expected to be a rough Citizens Bank Park to bring the fall classic back to Houston, starting with Game 3 on Monday.
Since the Astros began their historic ascent to six consecutive American League Championship Series in 2017 — they’ve won four pennants and one World Series in that span — they’ve won 22 road playoff games, which is seven more than each. other team in baseball. This team has been road tested.
The Phillies are all-time 21-9 (.700) in post-season games at Citizens Bank Park — the best home record of any team in a stadium that has hosted at least 20 playoff games. They have won all five home games this postseason, beating their opponents by a margin of 35-15 (and outhome them 12-6).
In postseason series with the current 2-3-2 format, teams that split the first two home games have won the series 47 out of 86 times (55 percent). In all best-of-seven series tied at 1-1, the winner of the third game has won the series 68 of 98 times (69 percent).
Here are three things the Astros in Philadelphia need to do to turn the series around:
1. Ride their pitching advantage
Pitch depth was the strength of the Astros during the playoffs, and now it’s time to show it. The Astros gave Justin Verlander (Game 1) and Framber Valdez (Game 2) a five-point lead to start the World Series, but Verlander was unable to catch up. Now they will turn to playoff-tested right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., who takes on veteran pitcher Noah Syndergaard in Game 3. The Astros should have the advantage here.
McCullers is one of the best big game pitchers in Astros history, winning 2-2 with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP in 18 games in the postseason. His 11 playoff starts and 68 1/3 innings are the second most in franchise history behind Verlander (17 playoff starts, 104 1/3 innings). McCullers faced the Phillies in his final regular season start on October 3, holding them to one run on six hits and one walk over six innings.
Syndergaard, who made his first World Series start since 2015, has only surpassed 35 pitches once since mid-September, so Game 3 could see the Phillies crawl deep into their bullpen in the first of three straight games, though Philadelphia’s bullpen 8 2 has pitched /3 scoreless innings so far in the World Series.
In Game 4, the Astros will likely have the starting pitching advantage again, with Cristian Javier getting the ball against Ranger Suárez, who tagged the Astros for six runs in three innings. Javier, with his “invisi-ball” fastball and swipe slider, may have the best stuff on the starting staff and has never faced the Phillies.
“Javy is so unique in its own way, but it’s definitely an advantage,” said Astros pitching coach Josh Miller. “Their hitters haven’t seen his stuff come from the unique delivery and quality pitch combination he has. So it should be to Javy’s advantage if he takes the mound, and I expect he will do very well too.” to do.”
2. Hope Jose Altuve stays hot
After being hitless in his first 25 at bats of the postseason, Altuve appears to be turning the corner. He had three hits in Houston’s Game 2 win, hitting 7-for-16 since one of the worst slumps of his career.
Altuve set the tone at the top of the lineup, seen in Game 2 when he hit a first-pitch double and saw Jeremy Peña and Yordan Alvarez follow him with their own doubles. All three scored and the Astros were en route to a tie in victory.
“Obviously I swung on everything at the beginning of the playoffs and then slowly got better at swaying on my field,” said Altuve.
Altuve is one of the most prolific postseason players in major league history, with 23 postseason home runs – the second most all time – and 99 postseason hits, trailing only Derek Jeter ( 200), Bernie Williams (128) and Manny Ramirez (117), Jorge Posada (103) and Yadier Molina (102).
3. Keep Schwarber and Harper under control
While opposing teams have been trying to get anyone but Alvarez to beat after he hit game-winning homers in Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS against Seattle, the Astros have done a pretty good job of holding off Phillies left-handed sluggers Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper until under control so far (although Schwarber narrowly missed a homerun with a 403-foot foul ball in the eighth inning in Game 2).
Harper, the NLCS’s Most Valuable Player, was 0-for-4 in Game 2 and is 2-for-8 in the series without an extra-base hit or an RBI. Schwarber is 2-for-7 in the series, also without an extra-base hit or an RBI. In the regular season and postseason combined, McCullers has held lefthanded batters to .556 OPS (.170/.301/.255) this year with one homer in 113 at bats. Javier has been similarly effective against lefts, holding them on a .184/.270/.311 slash.