►Well, you didn’t really think the Astros were going to sweep their way to another World Championship, did you?
The Astros were dominant in the ALDS and ALCS, but in six of the seven games of those series, the outcome was decided by two runs or less. To sweep, a lot of things had to break just right for the Astros.
Last night things didn’t break right.
Everything looked set up for another heroic finish. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the score tied 5-5, struggling Jose Altuve blooped a single in center field. He stole second on a razor-close play that was reviewed. He looked barely out to me, but it was too close to overturn.
Then the rookie ALCS MVP, Jeremy Pena, blooped another fly down the right field line that looked like a sure hit. But the normally stumble-footed right fielder, Nick Castellanos, somehow emerged to steal the hit, save the game for the Phils and send the game into extra innings.
Manager Dusty Baker brought in the hero of the 18-inning game against the Mariners, Luis Garcia. I wondered how Garcia would fare against the heavily left-handed Phillies lineup, but it was righty J.T Realmuto who broke Garcia’s playoff scoreless inning string with a just-barely homer to right.
Still, the Astros had a chance, and in the bottom of the tenth had runners on second and third with two outs and Aledmys Diaz pinch-hitting. Pitcher David Robertson had just walked Yuli Gurriel and thrown a wild pitch to put Alex Bregman and Guriel into scoring position. Diaz swung at a 3-0 pitch and then meekly grounded out to end the game.
No heroics in Game One of the World Series for the Astros, although the chances were there.
Kyle Tucker became the first Astro in history to have a multi-home run game in the playoffs. We’ll need him to stay hot because Yordan Alvarez has chosen the exact wrong time to go stone cold while Altuve remains in a funk.
Since the last game of the ALDS, Alvarez is 3 for 25. He almost single-handedly beat the Mariners in games one and two of the Division Series but has been AWOL since. Without Altuve or Alvarez hitting, the Astros have an anemic attack.
Plus, DH is a total black hole. Neither Trey Mancini nor Aledmys Diaz seems like they could hit a beach ball at this point. The loss of Michael Brantley suddenly looms large.
I know the Click haters will question his decision to acquire Mancini at the trade deadline, but Mancini has a respectable track record. The GM can’t predict the future performance of a rental any more than he could have predicted the playoff disappearance of Jose Altuve.
I am worried about Justin Verlander. He was terrible in Game One of the ALDS, started out poorly in the ALCS but recovered. In the post-game interview, he admitted that since his late-season injury, he has been struggling to regain his mechanics but felt something ”clicked” during the Yankees game. He expressed hope that that would continue.
It looks like he unclicked, and I wonder if the Astros can afford to wait to see if he can re-click in Game 5. I know how radical it would be to sit one of the all-time greats in a World Series, but considering the Astros’ pitching depth, Verlander’s age, and World Series track record, I’m not sure I trust him at this point. In five innings against Verlander, the Phillies scored five runs. In five innings against the Astros bullpen, they scored one.
Towards the end of the season, our own Cody Poage analyzed Verlander’s season and concluded that regression looked likely. It seems to have happened at an unfortunate time.
Oh well, It’s just one game. Plenty of time to turn it around. I still say the Astros win. I picked them in seven and hope to be there to see them win.