With the World Series matchup set, the NL Champion Philadelphia Phillies will clash with the AL Champion Houston Astros.
The Houston Astros dominated the regular season in the AL and swept both the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees in the AL playoffs, going 7-0 in the postseason.
The Philadelphia Phillies clinched the final wild card berth in the NL but dominated their opponents in the playoffs. They swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the Wild Card Round and lost a total of two games against the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres in the NLDS and NLCS.
In each round of the postseason, the Phillies and Astros had different players step up to help lead their teams to the Fall Classic. Who will step up for each team when these two meet for the World Series? Take a look at three players from each club to watch during the World Series.
Jeremy Pena, SS
The rookie Pena took over for Carlos Correa after he left for the Minnesota Twins and the Astros haven’t missed a beat.
Over the course of the season, Pena has shown improvements. In the regular season, he hit 22 home runs and 63 RBIs. In the playoffs, he has shown that he is a good defender and had some clutch homers when the Astros needed it. He hit a clutch homer in the top of the 18th inning to sweep the Seattle Mariners and hit a 3-run homer in game 4 of the ALCS to tie the game and help the Astros ultimately win the series.
Jeremy Pena is definitely an x-factor for Houston in this series.
Justin Verlander, SP
Justin Verlander, who is 39 years old, is favored to win his third Cy Young award after dominating his opponents this season.
Verlander went 18-4 during the regular season with an ERA of 1.75. During this postseason he has looked a little bit more human, starting 2 games but only recording 1 win, with an ERA of 6.30. In Game 1 of their ALDS series against the Mariners he gave up 6 earned runs on 10 hits in 4 innings pitched. In his second start he only gave up 3 hits and 1 earned run in 6 innings pitched. Verlander faced the Phillies once this season, going 5 innings with 10 strikeouts and no earned runs.
This game came after the Phillies clinched their first postseason berth in 11 years, so take this outing against the Phillies with a grain of salt. Verlander will be a major factor in this series and with him as the probable starter for Game 1, he will try to set the tone.
Yordan Alvarez, LF
Yordan Alvarez started his postseason off with a bang. In Game 1 of the ALDS, Alvarez knocked in a 3-run home run at the bottom of the 9th to win a game that the Mariners were sure to win. He also hit a home run in Game 2 but has been pretty quiet since then.
He is currently batting .241 with the majority of his RBIs coming in those first few games. If he is able to get it going against the Phillies, it could be a long series for the Philadelphia pitchers.
Bryce Harper, DH
Bryce Harper has been must-see TV this postseason. Harper started out slow when he returned from a broken thumb this season but things seemed to have slowed down at the plate for the superstar. Harper’s fortunes changed when he stopped chasing at the plate and allowed himself to be walked in the 9th inning of Game 1 of the Wild Card series against the Cardinals.
Ever since the moment Harper has been on fire and looked like the superstar we all expected him to be in the postseason. Harper is batting .419, with 5 home runs, and 11 RBIs. He was the NLCS MVP for a reason and if the Astros pitch to him, his hot streak will continue.
Harper can single-handedly win games for this Phillies team, so the Astros better look out, he is locked in.
Bryson Stott, SS
Bryson Stott has improved so much since Spring Training and doesn’t even look like the same player. This postseason, Stott has 6 hits, 2 RBI, and 3 runs but it seems like every hit is a big double. This kid has hit his stride at the plate and is working at-bats to get the pitch he likes.
He has also been good in the infield, except for a major error against the San Diego Padres. Stott will need to play great defense against a good Houston team with a good offense. His ability to make on-target and on-time throws for outs at first and double plays will be important in this series.
Look for Stott to step up to the plate against the Astros.
Nick Castellanos, RF
Nick Castellanos had a down year in his first year with the Phillies. Last season with the Cincinnati Reds, his batting average was .309, and he hit 34 home runs, with 100 RBIs. That Castellanos didn’t show up for the Phils this year, as he tried to find his footing in the batting order and on the team.
In the postseason, he has played better with 9 hits and 6 RBIs and his defense has been better. He isn’t known for his defense but has made some good defensive plays in right field, including a game-saving catch against the Atlanta Braves in the ALDS.
If “Nicky Singles” can turn some of those singles and doubles into home runs against the Astros, it would be a much-needed offensive weapon for this team. Harper and Schwarber have awakened the offense, so what better time than now would it be for Castellanos add some homers into the mix.