The World Series is officially here, the grand finale of a season that Rob Manfred tried so hard to ruin. The 87-win Philadelphia Phillies prevailed, against almost all odds, to take down the big dogs of the National League and face the villainous, 106-win Houston Astros.
Facing the second-largest gap in regular season wins ever in a World Series (you might recognize the first, oh, just the solitary Crosstown World Series, won by the Good Guys in 1906), Philly punched the favorites in the mouth, taking the opener, 6-5, in 10 innings.
Justin Verlander made his eighth career World Series start tonight, still seeking his first win in the Fall Classic. And at this very moment, he’s still seeking it.
Verlander came in tonight with an 0-6 record and a 5.68 ERA in seven career World Series starts, and unfortunately for him, he wasn’t able to get it done once tonight. At first, he was making Philadelphia batters look relatively foolish. Guys like Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins had a few balls that they just missed on, but the Phillies were otherwise quiet for the first three.
The Astros jumped on top early and built a 5-0 lead by the third, stemming off a pair of Kyle Tucker bombs. So to review, there was a five-run cushion for Verlander, and he only needed to make it another couple of innings to claim that elusive first win in the Fall Classic. The Phillies, however, refused to quit, and wound up clawing their way back.
And if you’re patient, you can have a five-run Verlander blown lead, as a treat.
Kyle Tucker kick-started the Houston offense with a leadoff bomb in the second, the first hit of the 2022 World Series.
Yuli Gurriel, Chas McCormick, and Martín Maldonado followed suit to snag one more run before the Phillies would get out of it, giving them a quick 2-0 lead. Nola wasn’t able to recover very much in the third — a Jeremy Peña leadoff double, an Alex Bregman walk, and a 395-foot no-doubter from Kyle Tucker, his second of the game.
These are accomplishments that I could only dream of from the White Sox doing, but sure, we will get one Leury García bomb and we will like it.
As soon as the Phillies were able to see Verlander a second time through the order, all bets were off. Rhys Hoskins singled in the fourth to begin the rally that would bring Philadelphia right back in the game. Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos strung together another pair of singles to bring Rhys in to score, setting up Alec Bohm beautifully for a two-run double down the left field line. 5-3, Astros!
To make the game even more exciting, Verlander’s downfall continued into the top of the fifth, after Brandon Marsh stretched his leadoff base hit into a double. Justin’s second walk of the game was dished to Schwarber, setting up J.T. Realmuto to rip a line shot off of the left-field wall to tie the game at five!
Pretty much the worst case scenario for the Trash Can Bangers — but the best-case scenario for America.
It was a battle between bullpens for the next four innings. Bryan Abreu came out first for the Astros in the sixth, and he plowed right through the first three batters he faced — but the seventh did not go as smoothly. A couple of walks came back to bite him, and in the blink of an eye he had the bases loaded with Castellanos coming up to wreak havoc on this tie ball game. Sadly, Hector Neris was able to eliminate the threat of the grand slam we all so deeply desired — but hey, at least known speed demon, Schwarber, stole a base and got us a free taco.
The next three Houston pitchers did what they needed to keep the Astros in the game, begging for someone, anyone to score a run to relieve some of the pressure. But Houston couldn’t string enough hits together to take the game back.
On the Phillies side, José Alvarado came in to relieve Aaron Nola to take care of Alvarez and Bregman to get out of the inning. The next three Philadelphia relievers combined for another three scoreless innings, striking out four in the process and walking only one. This was enough to get out of a bottom-of-the-ninth jam aided by an absolutely marvelous, game-saving catch from Castellanos to send the game into extras. After watching first basemen play the outfield for the White Sox the entire year, I forgot that normal outfielders actually can make plays like that! An outfielder in the outfield? Imagine that.
All of this after a dramatic, and somewhat controversial, replay review that deemed José Altuve safe at second. Realmuto had an unbelievable game tonight, not only tying the game at five in the fifth, but blasting a line shot over the right-field wall in the top of the 10th inning to finally break the tie and give Philadelphia its first lead of the night.
Would it be World Series extra innings if there wasn’t drama in the bottom of the 10th? Between a half-intentional walk to Gurriel, a non-intentional-walk-turned-strikeout from Kyle Tucker, and a game-threatening wild pitch, closer David Robertson made it a thrilling end to the World Series opener. The only way this game could have gotten more chaotic was if Tony La Russa came out of nowhere to walk Kyle Tucker when he reached a 1-2 count.
But Philly sealed Game 1 and dealt the Astros their first loss of the postseason. I know the Phillies are the underdogs here, but we definitely shouldn’t be counting them out. Can’t wait to see what the rest of this series has in store.