The Astros and Phillies face off for Game 3 of the World Series in the first of three games in Philadelphia.
I think winning this game is more important to the Phillies than it is to the Astros, although, of course, you never take any World Series game for granted. But it is more important to the Phillies because from this point on, pitching depth becomes paramount, and that is the Astros’ biggest advantage over the Phils.
As far as high-end, playoff-quality starting pitching goes, the Phillies are just two deep. Tonight they start their #3 Noah Syndergaard, the pitcher formerly known as “Thor.” He no longer possesses the hammer fastball, and he last pitched 15 days ago, so he probably doesn’t go more than four innings tonight.
Syndergaard still rates as at least an average starting pitcher, and he can use veteran craft to get outs. His season ERA was 3.94, an ERA+ of 99, or almost exactly average. His peripheral stats line up with his ERA.
The Astros faced Syndergaard twice this year when he was with the LA Angels. On April 9th, he kept the Stros off-balance, going 5.1 innings, allowing only two hits but striking out only one.
On July 12, the Astros had a little more luck against him. In that game, he went four innings, allowing three runs on three hits with three strikeouts but four walks.
Meanwhile, the Astros counter with playoff veteran Lance McCullers Jr. In an injury-shortened season, McCullers came back to pitch 47.2 innings with a 2.27 ERA. The league hit .214 against him, but his BB% was a little high, 11.3%, with a 25.6% K percentage.
According to peripheral stats. McCullers over-achieved a bit in his limited time in 2022. His xFIP was 3.48, while his SIERA was 2.85. Still, not bad for a guy who had to pitch his way back into shape after his prolonged arm injury suffered in last year’s playoffs.
McCullers last pitched in the fourth game of the ALCS but was not particularly sharp. He got through five innings, allowing three runs on eight hits with six strikeouts. Perhaps the rain delay in that game was a factor.
The Phillies will probably stack their lineup with left-handed hitters, but that could be a mistake. McCullers has an ERA against left-handers of only 1.14 this season, compared to a 3.38 versus righties. On the other hand, he has pitched better at home in this season’s short sample. His ERA away is 3.57.
The Phillies have seen McCullers fairly recently, and with clinching a playoff spot on the line for them, they did not like what they saw. On October 3rd, McCullers pitched six innings, allowing only one run on six hits, one walk, and five Ks. Kyle Scwarber had the only RBI off McCullers with a homer.
If McCullers can hold the Phillies to one run in six innings tonight, I like the Astros’ chances.
The weather could be a factor. The game-time chance of rain, according to Weather.com, is 39%. By 8 PM CT, this increases to 51% and by 9 to 64%. The rain looks to be light but will probably be a factor and will continue through the morning.
The Astros swept the ALDS and ALCS with their sparkplug, Jose Altuve, going o-fer until the last game of the ALCS. Since that game, he is 6 for 13. He led off the game on Saturday with a first-pitch double down the left-field line and later hit singles to center and right field. That’s the Altuve we’ve known and loved and methinks he’s going to square one up soon.
If Altuve and Alvarez get their strokes back with everyone else staying on track, this series might not get back to Houston.
Will this never end? It turns out that Martin Maldonado was using a bat similar to one Albert Pujols uses that only Pujols is allowed to use. It must be why Maldonado has so many home runs this postseason.
And, for some reason, the Twitter rumor mill has it that Framber Valdez is using sticky stuff.
It’s getting ridiculous. Hating the Astros has become a religion for some baseball fanatics. Hating the baseball Satan must give some people the meaning they lack in their normal lives. “Burn the witch, burn the witch.”
And it’s the sports version of political virtue-signaling. The more you hate the Astros, the better a person you are.
And never underestimate the insidious power of envy.
Game time is 7:03 CT on Fox