Momentum swings fast. Just 24 hours ago, things could hardly have looked much better for the Phillies: Two wins away from a title with two games left at home and their ace on the hill.
Nine innings and no hits later, it’s a different story entering the last game of 2022 at Citizen’s Bank Park. The series is tied at two, but even a randomness-prone best-of-three series feels daunting against a powerhouse that hasn’t lost three games in a row since July.
Though the big picture favors the visitors, the matchup advantage might be a toss-up. The Phillies turn to their deadline-acquisition fourth starter, and while Justin Verlander’s struggles in the World Series are starting to become A Narrative, it’s not going to make beating him much less daunting of a task with the season possibly, if not likely, on the line.
Justin Verlander (1-0. 7.20 ERA, 15 IP, 19 SO) vs. Noah Syndergaard (0-0. 1.69 ERA,5 1⁄3 IP, 4 SO)
After letting in five runs in five Game 1 innings, Verlander’s World Series ERA sits at an ugly 6.07 across eight starts, now to be nine. He’s never allowed fewer than two runs in a World Series game and only kept it at two in a Game 6 start in Los Angeles for the Astros in the now-infamous 2017 World Series. We’ve seen plenty of times first-hand how Verlander saves his most explosive stuff for the biggest moments, so we’ll see if he lets it loose tonight — with the understanding that a relief appearance later in the series will almost assuredly be on the table.
On the other side, Noah Syndergaard returns to the World Series after a six-year hiatus. Thor started Game 3 of the 2015 World Series at Citi Field, where he began the game by greeting Alcides Escobar — famous for swinging at the first pitch — with a 98 mph projectile to the face of the people behind the home plate netting.
Syndergaard looks a lot different these days. His fastball has been grinding away in the 92-94 mph range lately, and he leans heavily on a slider that was barely an afterthought in 2015. He endured an uneven second half, working to a 4.12 ERA in ten appearances (nine starts) after coming to Philadelphia from the Angels in exchange for former top overall pick Mickey Moniak. The Sox aren’t the only team to blow a high draft pick or two, but others spend money to make up for it.
Anyhow, Syndergaard was lifted after three innings and 35 pitches against Atlanta in his only start of the postseason, so expect much of this to lie in the hands of the Phillies’ bullpen. There’s a thought for you.
The postseason and regular season matchup stats, until lineups are posted: