Two stories clash in the fall classic this year after a postseason full of history. This year’s edition of the World Series features the Philadelphia Phillies and the Houston Astros, both with a lot on the line.
The Phillies want to take advantage of an unprecedented run before entering the uncertainty of a long and competitive season with medium regular season expectations. Meanwhile Houston wants to finally go all the way and redeem themselves following all their deep playoff runs that ended with no hardware.
For Philadelphia, it’s their first trip to the World Series since their 2009 loss to the New York Yankees. This is also their first time reaching the postseason since 2011. With the Astros, it’s their second straight trip and fourth since 2017.
Here’s a look at the two sides and how they stack up.
Nobody would’ve expected this. In a bracket that featured the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves and New York Mets, nobody expected the 87-win Phillies to make it here. Written off by most people in the Wild Card round against the St. Louis Cardinals, they swept their opponents on the road and never looked back.
The main story is the hitting. Kyle Schwarber has been hitting bombs all October. Rhys Hoskins, while not super consistent, has hit some of Phillly’s most important home runs this postseason. And they still boast guys like J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura and Nick Castellanos. But, the main story has been Bryce Harper.
The reigning NL MVP has been mashing all year long, and carried it well into the fall. His 1.351 OPS has been the driving factor of the lineup’s success, and his 11 extra base hits this postseason are a franchise record. Harper encapsulated his excellence with one beautiful swing when he sent Philadelphia into a frenzy with his go-ahead home run to bring them to the World Series.
Make no mistake, Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler have been nasty, specifically the latter, as he’s boasted a 1.78 ERA with a 0.51 WHIP in four starts this postseason. But, the bullpen being better has been huge. Andrew Bellatti, Ranger Suarez and David Roberston have been great, but Seranthony Dominguez has continued to show why he’s an elite reliever. He’s put up a 1.17 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 7.2 innings pitched, all while not allowing a single long ball or walk.
Everyone should’ve expected this. The Astros were simply the best team in the American League, and it has shown this postseason. They won 106 games during the regular season, and have gone 7-0 so far this postseason.
It starts with the unbelievable pitching depth. Justin Verlander returned after missing two years and looks astonishing. His strikeout numbers are slightly down from before, but he makes up for it by not walking anybody and hardly allowing any good contact (his home run rate is the lowest it’s been since 2010 at 1.4 HR/9!). Aside from Verlander, what about Framber Valdez? Well, he’s a guaranteed quality start and is among the league’s best at preventing quality contact with the help of his and nasty curveball and sinker.
The rest of the pitching depth is remarkable. Cristian Javier is the perfect swing-and-miss maestro for the rotation, Luis Garcia has recovered from a rough postseason last year and pitched a scoreless game in the ALDS, and Lance McCullers has posted a 2.46 ERA this postseason despite coming back from a long-term injury. The bullpen has also taken a massive step this October, boasting a collective 0.82 ERA in 33 innings pitched with everyone chipping in.
While the pitching staff is literal hell for opponents, the tried and true names of the Astros lineup continue to shine. The likes of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker continue to terrorize as a unit, but the emergence of Jeremy Pena has been pivotal. The potential rookie-of-the-year has lived up to the hype of Carlos Correa’s successor with a .991 postseason OPS en route to winning ALCS MVP for the first time ever.
Comparing the two
Between these two, it’s the ultimate matchup of David and Goliath, or at least on paper. Yes, the Phillies only won 87 games, a 19-game difference from the 106-win Astros, but it’s also important to note that their best player missed 63 games due to a thumb injury. They probably win 90 games if he’s healthy all year. Still, the Phillies never looked dominant and even came close to being caught by the Milwaukee Brewers for the last playoff spot, which was after Harper returned.
But this is why October baseball is played. The Phillies didn’t hold up, and with their hard-earned golden ticket, they have gone 9-2 this postseason.
Houston faced less doubt, being a juggernaut since the season started. Going up big early in games is certainly something the Phillies will NEED to do, otherwise forget it.
In terms of pitching, the Astros far and away carry the advantage. Nola and Wheeler might be a dominant duo, and other guys are stepping up. But with Houston, Dusty Baker can probably get away with picking his guys out of a hat in any given situation. The depth is surreal and there’s a reason this club gets far in the playoffs every year.
When it comes to offense, it becomes tougher debating these clubs. The Astros have the same core of dominance who always step up when the lights shine brightest. The Phillies are a dangerous lineup that boasts some of the game’s heaviest hitters. Houston has also shown us what they’re capable of in October for the last several years, whereas Philadelphia must prove that they didn’t run out of gas before the finish line.
The hitting still goes to the Astros. The depth along with the experience of most of these hitters puts them over the top of a Phillies team that is admittedly a little reliant on clutch hits rather than overwhelming performances.
For these reasons, Houston looks better. They have their inner motivation to get revenge from last season’s World Series loss, and have been crushing the competition since their game one ALDS comeback against the Seattle Mariners.
The Phillies have the heart, hitting talent and upper rotation dominance to pull this off, but they’re going to need to keep their foot on the gas at all times. Houston is a different animal compared to what they’ve seen.