It’s not good when you lose the first game of a World Series. But it feels even worse when you had a 5-0 lead in the first third of the contest and blew it to lose 6-5. That’s exactly what we witnessed on Friday night between Phillies and Astros at Minute Maid Park, where Philadelphia kicked off the Fall Classic with a win in 10 innings.
Right when the Astros had served the table for what we thought would be a game with plenty of runs for the locals, they just imploded. Justin Verlander failed to dominate or at least to be decent and the lineup just turned off after the three-run third inning. Maybe the most painful scene occurred when the Astros stranded the tying run on third base in the 10th inning.
The Astros didn’t care about having opponent starter Aaron Nola on the mound as they absolutely smashed him. Kyle Tucker hit two homers and went 3-for-5 with four RBIs, becoming the second-youngest player with a multi-homer performance to begin a World Series, at 25 years and 285 days – only behind Andruw Jones (19 years, 180 days).
Tucker combined with an RBI single from Martín Maldonado to make it 5-0 before the Phillies could even react. But –unfortunately— they did and the Astros didn’t stop them.
In the fourth, with a JV that was looking temporarily sharp, Nick Castellanos singled home a run (5-1) and Alec Bohm scorched a two-run double to leave things 5-3. An inning later, with Verlander still on the hill, JT Realmuto was just a hair shy of hitting a go-ahead four-bagger. Instead, he launched a two-base knock to tie the game at five runs apiece.
Verlander lasted five innings (90 pitches) and surrendered six hits and five earned runs while giving up two walks and striking out five rivals. Among all pitchers with at least 30 career innings in the World Series, JV owns the worst ERA in history, with a 6.07 mark – Carl Erskine, second on the list, had a 5.83 ERA.
What’s more heartbreaking about Verlander’s night is that he did receive run support. During the regular season, the veteran righty went 16-0 with a 1.35 ERA when the offense backed him up with at least three runs, something that has not been the trend this time.
In the meantime, the Astros were absolutely silenced by the Phillies bullpen, which went 5 2/3 scoreless innings of four hits, two walks, and seven punchouts. Since the fourth inning, the Astros got only four hits over 25 at-bats (.160) and struck out nine times (!!!).
Even though Houston’s bullpen did a good job, one of the two groups had to give, right? With Luis García pitching for the Astros in the 10th inning, JT Realmuto struck again and swatted a go-ahead solo shot. Realmuto drove in half of the Phillies’ six runs.
Painfully, the Astros had two big chances in innings nine and 10. In the ninth with two outs, José Altuve was running on second after stealing a base and Jeremy Peña hit a grenade behind first base, which was caught by a sliding Nick Castellanos. An inning later and also with two outs against closer David Robertson, Aledmys Díaz was retired to end the game with two men in scoring position.
Game 2 will be played on Saturday night and will also present a great pitching duel: Zack Wheeler (1.78 ERA this postseason) is set to face Framber Valdez (1.42 this postseason). The Astros need to tie the series!