Astros and Phillies Set for World Series


Minute Maid Park in Houston | Image by USA Tosay Sports

The World Series begins Friday night in Houston as the Astros take on the Philadelphia Phillies. The home team will start Justin Verlander on the mound, while Philadelphia will reply with Aaron Nola.

No club has swept the postseason in the wild-card era. The 1999 Yankees and 2005 White Sox came the closest, with 11-1 records.

The Astros could become the first to accomplish an unblemished record. If they do, they will likely be remembered as an all-time great club and a modern-day dynasty. The team earned 106 regular-season victories this season. They have made six consecutive ALCS appearances, with three prior visits to the World Series in the last six years, and earned a World Series title in 2017.

A long-awaited World Series championship could also solidify Houston skipper Dusty Baker’s place in the Hall of Fame.

“That’d be wonderful,” Houston pitcher Justin Verlander said.

Like Baker, Verlander — a two-time Cy Young Award winner, has never won an MLB title.

“I think Dusty and I both would like to check [that] off,” he said.

During the regular season, the Astros’ relievers led the majors in ERA and have been dominant in the postseason.

Baker can unleash up to five lights-out, high-leverage arms at any point in the game. The Phillies cannot compete with this level of depth.

The Astros are making their fourth World Series appearance in six years, are unbeaten in the playoffs, and have a solid blend of veterans operating at peak levels and young players coming into their own.

This feels like the Astros’ opportunity to put behind them for good any further talk about the sign-stealing scandal of the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Houston is as near to a flawless squad as you’ll find in MLB right now, so the only imperfection is a lack of a dominant lefty to match up against Kyle Schwarber or Bryce Harper in a high-leverage situation.

The Astros have right-handed relievers who excel in those situations, so painting this as a severe weakness may be a stretch, and they could always call up veteran lefty Will Smith to fill a specific position.

Philadelphia’s slugging percentage and OPS are up significantly in the postseason, and the Phillies are capable of outslugging the Astros if the Philly offense starts clicking. The Phillies are 5-0 at home in playoffs, and they don’t think it’s a fluke.

“I like our hitters, and I think our lefties are swinging the bat pretty good,” Philadelphia Manager Rob Thomson said.

This season, the Phillies have been tested in a way that the Astros have not. If the Astros take any aspect of the Phillies’ game lightly, they will discover what three other teams have found this postseason: Nobody frightens Philadelphia. On paper, Philadelphia is a No.6 seed, but it is far from it on the field right now.

The first pitch of World Series Game 1 at Minute Maid Park is slated for 8:03 p.m. ET on October 28.

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