It’s now or never for the Philadelphia Phillies. A magical ride has taken the Phillies back to the city of Houston, where they will have to try and beat the Astros in two straight games to win the World Series.
The Phillies have found success in Houston over the last month. They first clinched their playoff spot in Houston in early October, starting a journey of a lifetime. Once they returned to Houston to start the World Series, the Phillies took Game 1, thanks to a JT Realmuto solo home run in the top of the 10th.
Since then, the Phillies have dropped 3 of their last 4 games. The Fightins picked the worst time to drop their first and second games at home in this playoffs. They will now have to win two games on the road if they want to bring the World Series trophy back to Philadelphia.
Game 6 of the World Series will feature a pitching rematch from Game 2. The Phillies will send Zack Wheeler to the mound to try and bounce back against the Astros and Framber Valdez. As Phillies fans remember, Valdez absolutely carved through their lineup in their previous meeting.
The Phillies ace has dealt with plenty of arm issues in 2022. After starting the season delayed, Wheeler took some time to find his juice again. The Phillies were patient, and that patience wore off as Zack returned to form as the season progressed. In late August and early September, the Phillies placed their ace back on the Injured List as he began dealing with arm fatigue. The rest worked, but some lasting effects have come back to hurt the Phillies as of late.
Wheeler, once again, is feeling some fatigue in his throwing arm. Whether or not his performance in Game 2 had anything to do with it, the facts are he was not his best in his start. Wheels threw 5 innings, allowing 6 hits and 4 earned runs. His three walks were high for a pitcher who rarely allows free passes. His 3 strikeouts, however, were low for a guy who is known for punching batters out.
Zack is ready to go for Game 6, but it is unclear how long he will be able to go for. Manager Rob Thomson has shown faith in his ace but has admitted he will manage Game 6 to win at all costs. If Wheeler doesn’t have it early in Game 6, expect an early exit from the Phillies’ best pitcher.
If you came here to read that Framber Valdez was cheating in Game 2, you’ve come to the wrong place. Despite some suspect behaviors, the Astros’ ace beat the Phillies because he was simply better. Valdez tossed 6 and third innings, allowing 4 hits and just one earned run. His start gave life back to the Houston clubhouse, and his outing was pivotal in winning Game 2.
The Phillies’ offense looked inept against Framber the last time out. The Phillies failed to make the necessary adjustments and could not capitalize on the opportunities they were presented with. If the Phillies wish to live to see a Game 7, they cannot allow for Valdez to get deep into this ballgame. Working counts and taking advantage of bad pitches will be the only way to attack Framber at the plate.
Phillies to Watch
As someone who has defended Nick Castellanos all season long, it was really hard to be positive after Game 5. Casty had several chances to drive in a run or simply get a hit. Castellanos had a chance to tie the game at the end and could not come through in the clutch. While he has made game-saving catches in the outfield in these playoff games, the bat that the Phillies thought they were adding to their lineup just simply hasn’t been there this season.
With that being said, there is still time to turn this around. The Phillies right fielder can erase his offensive output from this past season with big games in Game 6 and Game 7. Castellanos has been trusted to protect Bryce Harper in the lineup. Getting hot will mean pitchers have to give Bryce something to hit. If Casty can drive a few runners in tonight or hit his first home run since August 27th, the Phillies will get that extra punch they were looking for.
The best catcher in baseball was robbed on Thursday night. Chas McCormick made a fantastic catch-up against the wall in right-center to rob Realmuto of an extra-base hit. Despite the hit that never was, Realmuto has been ice-cold in this series. Batting third in the lineup, JT needs to be more productive. Realmuto has caught every game of the playoffs, and I am sure this late into the season, his knees are tired.
With Game 6 coming up and a potential Game 7 looming, Realmuto needs to give it all he has in the next two games. If the Phillies can get his bat going, they’ll have a chance to send tonight’s game to one final throwdown with the Astros.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke