For the third time in four years, the Astros again face an NL East opponent in the World Series with a far inferior regular season winning record but coming into the playoffs red-hot. Of course, the Astros lost the first two of these encounters.
The Astros won 106 games in 2022, while the Phillies barely broke .500, winning 87.
It’s hard to say the Astros aren’t on a run, though, having swept the ALDS and ALCS, and have a winning streak of 9 games, including the last two games of the season against the Phillies.
But the last time the Astros lost was to Aaron Nola, who takes the mound for the Phillies tonight.
In the playoffs, the two teams had similar run differentials. The Astros' run differential in their seven games was 31-18. For the Phils in 11 games, it was 75-35. The Astros scored 4.4 runs per game but only allowed 2.6. The Phillies scored more runs but allowed more. They scored 5.2 runs per game and allowed 3.2. So both teams had approximately a two-run per game run differential in the playoffs.
The Astros look like the better team on paper, considering season stats. Despite a Phils lineup featuring mega-sluggers Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, and Rhys Hoskins, and J’T. Realmuto, the Astros had the edge in wRC+ at 112 to 106.
The pitching advantage for the Astros is much more pronounced. The Astros team ERA was 2nd in MLB at 2.90. The Phillies are 18th at 3.98.
The bullpen could make the difference in this series, as the Astros relievers are best in MLB with a 2.80 ERA, while the Phillies are ranked all the way down to 23rd with a 4.27 ERA,
But that profiles a little too much like the 2019 World Series with the Washington Nationals, but their bullpen found themselves at just the wrong time for the Astros’ chances.
As most knowledgeable observers already know, the Phillies came on strong in the second half of the season, but no thanks to the bullpen, which was 29th in MLB in ERA at 5.10. The Philadelphia starters in the second half were 15th in the league at 3.90. Zack Wheeler was Philly’s best second-half starter with a 2.70 ERA, and the Phillies ace, Aaron Nola, was at 3.45 in the second half.
Phillies bats account for most of the team’s second-half success. The team wRC+ improved to 110, seventh in the league, and just three points below the Astros’ second-half performance.
Of course, most readers are aware of Shwarber’s and Harper’s superlative performances in the playoffs but don’t sleep on Rhys Hoskins and especially J. T. Realmuto, who led the Phillies in the second half of the season with a 162 wRC+ after a rather slow start. And one reason for Philadelphia's strong second-half showing was the return of Bryce Harper, who had a 138 wRC+ for the season in 99 games.
Here are the lineups
For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure
Game 1: Friday, October 28th @ 7:03 PM CDT
Location: Minute Maid Park - Houston, TX
Listen: Phillies - 94 WIP, WTTM 1680, ESPN Radio / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, TUDN 93.3/KLAT 1010, ESPN Radio