HOUSTON- For the first time this World Series, the Astros hold a series lead over the Phillies. Heading into Game 6 of the championship round, the Astros are just one win shy of clinching the World Series.
Phillies are not pressing the panic button
Despite their backs being to the wall, the sky is not falling in Philadelphia, nor is the team wasting time feeling sorry for themselves.
“That’s baseball, the ebbs and flows of the game,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said after the Game 5 loss at home. “Sometimes you go through times when you get no hits when you’re in scoring position and three days later everybody is getting hits – We just gotta keep battling.”
Thomson is spot on in his analysis of the Phillies’ offense. There are going to be times when the bats fall silent, but this is still one of the few truly elite offenses in the league.
In the last nine games, the Phillies have scored multiple runs in a single inning 11 times(!). Dating back to Game 1 of the NLDS, the Phillies have scored multiple runs in a single inning fifteen times in a dozen games.
This a team that can get hot in a hurry and with only two wins between them and a championship, the Phillies are looking to catch fire in Houston.
“There’s never a doubt with this club,” said David Robertson, who closed out the World Series opener. “This team’s resilient. We don’t stop fighting for every run we get. We can come back from anything.”
Just one loss shy of having their championship dreams dashed, the Phillies’ resiliency will certainly be tested in Houston.
The good news is, they have everything they need to win the World Series. It will take a collective effort, but if the Phillies can mitigate the self-inflicted wounds, this series is far from over.
“These guys will show up,” Thomson said. “I guarantee it, they are going to fight until the end.”
The odds may not be in their favor, but truthfully, they never were. Hardly anyone had predicted the Phillies to reach the playoffs this season, and even fewer believed they would be two wins shy of clinching the World Series right now.
This team had to fight for everything they accomplished this season, and in Game 6, I’d expect them to leave it all out on the field.
“No one said this was easy,” said Schwarber, who belted a leadoff home run in the first inning off Justin Verlander on Thursday. “We’ve overcome a lot of things throughout the course of this year to be in this position. I think when we get there, you’re going to see a really resilient club and we’re going to play until the very end and we’re going to see where it takes us.”
Even on the heels of back-to-back home losses, the thought of the Phillies playing their best ball in Houston should excite Phillies fans.
Let’s take a quick look at some reasons the Phillies can extend and win this series.
Wheels should be back on track
Zack Wheeler had an uncharacteristically bad outing in Game 2 of this series. Dealing with elbow fatigue, his velocity was noticeably down, and the Astros tacked five runs on him before Thomson gave him the early hook.
Wheeler will be pitching on an extra day of rest in his next start, which the Phillies believe will benefit him greatly.
“I think [it will help him] quite a bit, honestly,” said catcher J.T. Realmuto. “I think the numbers kind of speak for themselves with how well he’s pitched, not just this season, but his entire career with that extra day. I think it helps most starting pitchers, just that extra day of rest. I know I’ve never been a starting pitcher, so I don’t know exactly how to define it, but they always seem to do a lot better and feel a lot better with that extra day.”
The data backs this up. Wheeler recorded a 3.64 ERA with regular rest, a 2.57 ERA with five days of rest, and a 1.67 ERA with six or more days of rest during the regular season this year.
Aside from having extra rest, Zack Wheeler is also really freakin’ good.
During the regular season, Wheeler had a 2.82 ERA, which would be the eleventh-best in the league if he had enough innings to qualify. In 2021, he led the National League in strikeouts, proving how unhittable he can be when he has it rolling.
“Zack’s a competitor,” said Realmuto. “Even in his starts this season, when his [velocity] hasn’t necessarily been as high as it always is, he always competes for us. He’s got the stuff to get the job done.”
Vegas may say that the Phillies’ chips are down, but with Wheeler on the mound, the team should like their chances.
The Phillies have an elite offense
It may not feel like it after the team became just the second team to ever get no-hit in the World Series, but the Phillies’ offense is amongst the most explosive in the league.
Led by reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper, this offense is more than good enough to flip this series on its head.
The Phillies have compiled runs on teams and put pressure on opposing pitchers all season and Houston is no different. If the team can lock in and play up to their potential, the Astros may be in danger.
The bullpen has been near flawless
Not many predicted the Phillies bullpen to be much of a strength this season, but they have been stellar in the World Series. The bullpen did not allow a single run through the first three games of the series and has only surrendered three runs total.
Right now, it feels like the team can get a big inning out of virtually every option they have, which is a great position to be in.
As the Phillies seek out various matchup advantages, expect Thomson to continue to play chess with his relievers.
Ultimately, the Phillies just need to mute all distractions and focus on the fact that they are two wins away from being world champions. Regardless of the current series record, if they win the next two, they clinch the World Series. It’s that simple.
This team knows that they have the roster in place to contend. Now, they just have to lock in and execute.
AP Photo/David J. Phillip