Flashback Friday and the World Series ahead

There already has been a bit of a buzz about how the World Series matchup between the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies is a rematch of sorts from 42 years ago. There has been a lot of talk about Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, Mike Schmidt, Jose Cruz, Terry Puhl and all those players competing in that 1980 series and about how extremely competitive the series was, with four extra-inning games out of the five played. There are a few things that may not get mentioned but are critical to understanding that series.

  • It was the first venture of the Astros into the playoffs. They were coming off of 18 seasons of frustration. In most of those seasons, the team was buried by the All Star game. It was perhaps the biggest professional baseball moment in Houston since the opening of the Astrodome.
  • It was the one and only step to the World Series. Unlike today when you have to win two or three series to make the WS, you only had to beat the other division winner in your league and you were at the top. There was tremendous focus on the Championship Series and here in Houston it was a huge deal.
  • There was always a shadow hanging over this series. JR Richards should have been there. He should have been the starter in Game 1. But after pitching brilliantly early in the season, he was not feeling right and he suffered a stroke after not being properly diagnosed. What would a healthy JR have meant in that series? In a series that included four of five games going to extra innings – he might have made the difference.
  • This series also proved there was crying in baseball. Maybe not by the players. But this fan for the one and only time in his fanaticism broke down crying after Enos Cabell made the last out of the series. Sure it was only a game but the hurt was real.
  • The Phillies broke many a Houston heart in 1980. It is time the pain was returned.

Looking forward to this World Series…..

The Phillies are on a big run, not unlike the Washington Nationals in 2019 and the Atlanta Braves last year. They dumped their manager Joe Girardi early in the year, which seemed like an odd move until the team went on an extended roll under his successor Rob Thomson, who has moved from interim manager to permanent manager with his performance. The Phillies squeaked into the playoffs with 87 wins one more than the Milwaukee Brewers, who was the best team to not make the playoffs. But Philadelphia has spit in the face of home field advantage and won three series in a row as the underdog. They are a force to be reckoned with.

  • Overall – The Astros won 19 more games than the Phillies in the regular season. Maybe that doesn’t mean much some years, but they have the better team and they know it. The Astros will take this series in 5 games. The ghost of 2017 is ready to exit stage left.
  • The Astros offense is deep enough that they have won 7 straight playoff games despite Jose Altuve and Kyle Tucker barely making a dent, their DHs Aledmys Diaz and Trey Mancini slumping like crazy and Yordan Alvarez falling off after a 7 RBI start to the postseason. The heroes have been ALDS MVP Alvarez, ALCS MVP Jeremy Peña, Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, Chas McCormick and the two catchers Martin Maldonado and Christian Vazquez. The big hits can come from anywhere in the lineup.
  • The Phillies finished the regular season 4th or 5th in BA, OPS, Runs, and HRs in the NL. However, to date in the playoffs they were the top NL team in all those categories. Obviously, they are being led by the superstar Bryce Harper (.286 BA/.877 OPS/63 runs/18 HRs/65 RBIs in only 99 games), but he has solid support elsewhere. LF Kyle Schwarber, whose 46 HRs were second in the majors to some losing schmuck (can’t believe the Yank fans booed him), C JT Realmuto (22 HRs, 84 RBIs), 1B Rhys Hoskins (30 HRs, 79 RBIs), 3B Alec Bohm (13 HRs, 72 RBIs) and RF Nick Castellanos (13 HRs, 62 RBIs) all are good to better offensive players. 2B Jean Segura, SS Bryson Stott and CF Matt Vierling are all just there.
    Bottom line – This could be a push – either one of these teams are capable of a hot streak or an Arctic cold plunge.
  • There is not much else to say about the Astros’ starting rotation. They were the best rotation in the AL and in the playoffs they had 5 very good to excellent starts and two shaky starts from Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers, who also had excellent starts. Cristian Javier was great in his one start, Framber Valdez’s pitching was a plus in his two starts, while his fielding in one was a minus. They have depth and quality in this rotation.
  • The Phillies rotation is much more pedestrian than the Astros as they were smack in the middle of the NL with a 3.80 ERA. They are workhorses as they had the second most innings in the NL, their WHIP was 3rd at 1.17 but they gave up the 5th most HRs. There is no doubt that Zack Wheeler is the ace (12-7, 2.82 ERA) with Aaron Nola (11-13, 3.25 ERA) as the Dwight Shrute Assistant to the Regional Manager. After that will they use Ranger Suarez (10-7, 3.65 ERA), Bailey Falter (6-4, 3.86) or Zack Elfin (3-5, 4.04 ERA)? And what is happening with Noah Syndergaard who pitched 3 times in the NLDS and NLCS including one start, but only 5.1 innings total. We shall see. Bottom line – Advantage to Astros
  • Relief Pitching – I’m going to do the Bottom line before I look up the Phillies stats. Advantage to Astros
  • Any one who has been conscious during the playoffs realize that the Astros to date have followed up a best in AL bullpen year with a best in the playoffs bullpen run. They have the flexibility to run out a string of closer-like one inning arms with Ryan Pressly, Rafael Montero, Hector Neris and Ryne Stanek or mix in multi inning warriors like Bryan Abreu, Hunter Brown, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy or even Seth Martinez. This is the deepest, most flexible and best bullpen top to bottom the Astros have ever put forth for the playoffs.
  • The Phillies had a regular season bullpen that was in the bottom third in the NL with a 4.27 ERA. This despite throwing the least amount of innings during the 2022 regular season. Now they stepped it up in the first three rounds of the playoffs with a 3.19 ERA. The Phillies lost their original closer Corey Knebel a couple months into the season. The closer role was passed around though two pitchers – Seranthony Dominguez (6-5, 9 saves, 3.00 ERA) and Brad Hand (3-2, 5 saves, 2.80 ERA) saved the most games. They were backed up by a handful of other pitchers in normal starter Kyle Gibson (10-8, 5.05 ERA), Andrew Bellatti (4-4, 2 saves, 3.31 ERA), Jose Alvarado (4-2, 2 saves, 3.18 ERA) and Connor Brogdon (2-2, 2 saves, 3.27 ERA). In a short series anything can happen, but the Astros should still depend on their bullpen.
  • Overall – The Astros won 19 more games than the Phillies in the regular season. Maybe that doesn’t mean much some years, but they have the better team and they know it. The Astros will take this series in 5 games. The ghost of 2017 is ready to exit stage left.
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55 comments on “Flashback Friday and the World Series ahead

  1. It seems that people are making this out to be a contest between the Phillies power vs the Astros pitching, but the Astros outhomered the Phillies this season.
    I am a lifelong Astros fan an I am confident their team will win this thing.

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  2. This is not the matchup that anyone at MLB or FOX wanted. If you had to pick of all the postseason teams they did not want, only the Rays would rank lower. Regardless, the national media ignored Philly for the entire season and thought cracking jokes about the scandal from five years ago that only the Astros took part in out of all baseball (please note the sarcasm) was the best way to cover this team.

    For actual commentary, I expect our RH pitching will be able to handle the two dangerous lefties in the Philly lineup. I am concerned with the Astros coming out flat after a few too many days of rest. Nola is not a great pitcher, but had their number a few weeks back. Looking at the bullpen I think Philly’s best hope is to get strong performances from their top of rotation starters and steal a game or two. I think the Astros will win this with strong pitching, solid defense, and timely hitting that takes advantage of Phillies’ miscues.

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  3. As Elvis [or was it Ryan?] Presley once said:

    A little less commentary, a little more action, please!
    All this ‘Whatchu think, Joe?’s is just distractin’ me.
    A little more ‘pitchin’, and a lot less ‘bitchin”;
    a little more ‘hittin’, and less hair-splittin’,
    Yell ‘Play Ball’, start scratchin’ and spittin,
    & let JV four-seam high me!

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    • Stunning, but then Verlander drops a soft liner double play ball that would have ended a quick 4th inning, still 5-0. Instead the floodgates open. He was rattled.

      So what happens now? We’ve got the best pen, but we’ve got to hit.

      And I can’t help looking ahead. What do we do with Verlander, assuming a game 5 happens.

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  4. Why in the world is Trey Mancini the DH. Talk about an automatic out. That and it was obvious that JV lost it after the third inning. I don’t care if it’s Cy Young pitching. I’d have pulled him. The momentum shift to the Phillies was obvious. We’ll be lucky to win this one but I’ll take it if we do.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Too many negative things could be pointed out. I’ll pass. A win tonight becomes almost essential. The Astros can win anywhere, the environment is no big deal to them. But the Phillies know they can win this thing too though.

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  6. The Astros lost because their manager cared more about getting his starting pitcher a win than he did about getting his team a win, and because the Phillies right fielder saved the winning run from scoring in the 9th inning.
    You have the best bullpen in baseball and choose not to protect a
    5-3 lead with them in game 1 of the WS. The bullpen proved that Baker made the wrong choice by shutting out the Phillies for four innings, including using our closer in a scoreless ninth with the score tied, instead of it being 5-3.

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    • These were my exact thoughts. If the Astros lose this they can go right to that 4th inning when Javier should have been brought in for an inning then cycled through his leverage guys. JVs ego was more important. Even my wife who doesn’t know a lot about baseball was screaming at the tv in the 4th and 5th.

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    • If we are casting blame, maybe we should consider Maldonado asking for so many breaking pitches. The Phillies could hit the straight stuff from Verlander, so let’s give them something that speeds their bats up and let them collect some hits.

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  7. I was so concerned about that 4th inning with the Astros having just taken the 5 run lead. Giving anything back would give the Phillies hope. And then Verlander fumbled the soft liner. And then he lost his composure. And Abreu was ready and did not get used. The odds against the Phillies coming back from that deficit were frankly astronomical. We helped.

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  8. Sir Paul McCartney’s take on last night’s game:

    You’d think that people would’ve had enough of Phillie comebacks;
    Ask JV and he’ll say it isn’t so.
    The Fox Crew wants to fill the world with Phillie Comebacks;
    What’s wrong with that? I think you know ….
    but here we go … again!

    Let’s Win … game … two ……..
    Then Win … the next three, too ….
    Let’s Win … orange and blue …
    Let’s Win … and don’t lose …

    Let’s hit home runs in every inning;
    let’s slow their offense to a crawl;
    Don’t let them taste any more winning;
    shut down the Phillies … we’re sick of Phillies …
    we don’t like Phillies at all!

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  9. Now the buzz is that Joe Espada will not be hired for the White Sox job and since the Marlins job is filled and he is not in the running for the Royals job – he won’t be leaving

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    • I really only know of Espada from the annual managerial hiring rumors. I imagine he has an idea what Houston’s intentions are moving forward and will therefore know if he’s in a good position or not. I would have some short term concerns about our roster based on what’s down on the farm, but remaining with Houston over a number of years still seems like a far better option than going to Miami to lose 90+ games and eventually get fired or having to move to Chicago. Kansas City is really nice in the summertime, but I can’t imagine they compete more than once every couple decades thanks to the economics of the game. Also, don’t count out that NYY spot opening up…

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  10. Remember the “pesky Phillies” headlines from decades ago. Not watching the games cause I can’t, just like years ago. Ashamed baseball, or anything like it, could matter. Saw ‘Tuve and Bregman on the recap this morning, Alex in his camouflage cap and plaid shirt, which I’m sure was a broad declaration of something. I used to
    criticize Alex in this space during the “stare” period — said watch out as pride goes before fall. Alex, is this the new you or is there yet another to come? Seems like John the Baptist asked the same question. The only one who knows the outcome of this series is
    Someone who judges hearts. I can see where the Astros have paid their dues, and in fact were not the only “cheaters.” Maybe I am making this up, but remember from Scripture the Lord disciplines His own first. Was he judging ‘Tuve and the ‘Stros? I don’t know. Is
    their judgment over? I don’t know. Just that I can’t watch and sorry I still care. But I do.

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  11. I was nervous right up to the end. Pacing the floor like an expectant father. Moving from one couch to the other to ring us good luck. Yes sometimes superstitious. Thought Dusty left Montero in too long but it worked out. Lucky the two errors didn’t bite us hard but they did keep the Phillies in the game. I’ve got to say that they are the most dangerous team we’ve played in a long time. I’d rather play the Yankees any day before them as well as any other AL team. Maybe even the Dodgers. There’s just something about them. Need to win at least 2 in Philly or get out our broom for a sweep. it looked like Altuve might be getting his mojo back. Even on his bloop single to right he looked as if he was trying to pull the ball. If he and Tucker would stay back and go with the pitch they just might get a few more hits. Hopefully Monday will be a “treat” for the good guys.

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  12. PLAY SMART – AND KEEP THE PRESSURE ON – IN ALL NINE!

    We have played 19 innings so far in this series. That means our offense has had 19 opportunities to put runs on the board. We have only managed to do that in four of those 19 innings. What is more concerning, the latest point in the game in which our guys have managed to score so far is the 5th inning. Innings seven through nine [actually ten] have belonged totally to Philadelphia. They’ve scored against our best three times in the seventh and beyond; we have not not scored even one run against their supposedly inferior bullpen in those same critical innings.

    What does this all mean? It does not exactly bode well for us. It means that so far both their bullpen and their offensive approach in the later innings has been dramatically better than ours.

    To win this series we are probably going to have to find a way to score at least one run in inning seven, eight, or nine.

    And our defense, especially on the infield, and in regard to outfield throws, is going to have to be better – especially in the later innings.

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  13. Rookies rarely get the GG – pretty amazed that Pena took it. Tucker is so good in an unspectacular way – he just covers ground so smoothly he does not look as fast as he is.
    Yuli probably deserved one – but they unfortunately hardly ever give it to a guy who has a below average offensive year. Ironic

    Liked by 1 person

  14. If you’re scoring at home, Philly has driven in one run all series off a fastball. Every other run has come off a breaking pitch or changeup.

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  15. Was Lance tipping his pitches? I don’t think so. All five homers he gave up were off juicy meatballs up in the zone.

    Did Dusty leave Lance in too long? Nope, even if he pulled him after one inning, the best we would have done is lose 2-0.

    Of course, we can’t win if we don’t score. Flush this one and win the next one.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. It certainly looked to me as if he was planting his lead foot earlier on when throwing his curves [a temptation for pitchers who are subconsciously trying to generate more spin-rate], and consequently dropping his shoulder and lowering his arm angle. Since he really did not throw many fastballs/sinkers, however, the problem wasn’t so much tipping [everybody knew he was throwing a breaking pitch virtually every time] as it was predictability. He kept trying to spin the ball off the inside corner into the inner third of the plate [to a right handed batter], and he kept releasing a fraction of a second late, meaning the ball pretty much split the heart of the plate and screamed ‘hit me!’ at the top of its lungs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Whatever he did, it did not work. He picked the worst time to stink the place up. Our two pedigreed veteran pitchers, Cy Young included, the two guys we could not win without last year might be the ones we can’t win with this year. Baseball is an annoying game in November. We’ve played 10 games in 27 days since the regular season ended on October 5. I’m not making an excuse for our erratic, lethargic professional baseball players, but I can tell you that this fan is tired of hanging around waiting on a post season that has been a drag. This new system sucks.

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    • I don’t remember who Smoltz said he was talking to, but he referenced someone saying they thought Javier was the best pitcher for either staff. That’s quite a nod when you look at some of the names on these two staffs.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Another huge, series changing game tonight. Home up 3-2 or home barely hanging on? Seems like we should have a real advantage at this point. It’s a bullpen game for the Phillies and we’ve got our ace going. Most if not all of our pen is available. Can Verlander take control? Can we finally hit all night? Have not got a clue.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Hopefully the team rides the momentum but doesn’t really put any accomplishment on this no hitter. It’s great, something to remember after, but its just 1 win no matter how you get it. You need 2 more.

    My concern 2 of the next 3 games will be pitchers that the Phillies have gotten too already. After 8 WS starts, an 0-6 record and plus 6 ERA there has to be something that JV is doing different in WS game preparations than anywhere else. His WS stat sheet looks like mine in high school. In fairness to me I didn’t have 2 gold glovers and Yuli at 1B.

    Hopefully JV recognizes this, goes back to doing what he did all season long preparing, he and McCullers both have to realize that the Phillies are an ultra focused group right now and their analytical approach in these playoffs have been flawless – they both have to step up and do what CJ did last night. Javier had 28 foul balls last night, and his launch angle was the highest he had all season (which he may be the only pitcher in baseball that is a good thing for). He really gutted out that 6th, he gave up 3 ground balls (the only 3 of the game). For him, when he starts giving up grounders, that is the sign the fastball is losing its bite and staying down in the plane the hitters eyes are telling them it should be.

    Dusty also has to have the same hook on JV he would have on anyone else. If any other pitcher had given up 3 in the 4th inning, even if they finish the inning off, they probably get the hook.

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