The World Series gets underway on Friday at Minute Maid Park in Houston. The Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros will square off against one another in the 118th Fall Classic. The Phillies have torn through the National League, stringing together multiple series’ wins as underdogs and going on an improbable run to earn a spot in the World Series. The Astros have been even more dominant, sweeping the Mariners and Yankees en route to their second consecutive World Series appearance and their fourth in six years.
Philadelphia is seeking their third championship overall, winning titles in 2008 and 1980. Houston is in search of their second championship, winning their lone title in 2017.
Astros: Who’s hot/Who’s not
Despite a small sample size of just seven games, the Astros have a handful of hitters who have powered the lineup in the postseason this year.
Leading the charge, fresh off of ALCS MVP honors is standout rookie Jeremy Pena. The 25-year-old has a .990 OPS and has clobbered three home runs, three doubles and scored a team-high seven runs in 33 at-bats.
Postseason veteran Alex Bregman has performed yet again on the big stage. He has four extra-base hits, seven RBIs and a .975 OPS in 30 at-bats. Bregman has quickly risen to the top of many offensive categories in postseason history among third basemen.
Leading the team in hits and batting average, Yuli Gurriel has stepped up in October. The veteran infielder has 11 knocks and a .933 OPS in 30 at-bats.
The duo of Chas McCormick and Yordan Alvarez have also stepped up, combining for six extra-base hits, four being home runs. Each has an OPS near .900 in 49 total at-bats. Alvarez got the postseason off to an electric start for the Astros, launching a walk-off three-run home run in Game 1 of the ALDS against Seattle.
A couple of Houston sluggers have had a rough go of it so far in the playoffs. Normally a frequent problem for opposing pitchers to face, Jose Altuve has mightily struggled this postseason. He has three hits in 32 at-bats with just one extra-base hit. His OPS sits below .300 this postseason. He may be turning the corner at just the right time though, as his two-hit game in Game 4 of the ALCS could be a positive sign before the World Series begins.
Outfielder Kyle Tucker has had a difficult time finding his stroke as well, hitting just .214 with one extra-base hit in 28 at-bats.
Phillies: Who’s hot/Who’s not
Unquestionably the hottest hitter in the lineup for Philadelphia right now is NLCS MVP Bryce Harper. The superstar outfielder has hit .419/.444/.907 with a 1.351 OPS in 43 at-bats. He has hit five home runs, six doubles and has 39 total bases with 11 RBIs in 11 games.
Outside of Harper, there are only a few guys who have provided somewhat of a consistent impact offensively to this point. Kyle Schwarber has just seven hits in 35 at-bats, but he has three home runs and leads the team with nine walks. His .832 OPS is second among qualifiers in the lineup, trailing just Harper.
Similar to Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins has had a hard time getting consistent hits, but the first baseman has five home runs and 11 RBIs with 24 total bases in 44 at-bats.
The trio of Alec Bohm, Brandon Marsh and Nick Castellanos have struggled thus far. Bohm has seven hits in 37 at bats with a .532 OPS. He has slashed .189/.262/.270 in 11 games.
Acquired before the trade deadline, Marsh had his signature moment with the Phillies in the NLDS against the Braves. His three-run home run in the second inning got the offense going early in Game 4, providing a massive boost in the series-clinching win. Aside from the long ball, Marsh has not yet found his footing this postseason. He has hit .154/.214/.346 with 13 strikeouts in 26 at-bats.
Castellanos, who squeezed the final out in the NLCS, has been mediocre as well. He had a game to remember in Atlanta, doing it all in the NLDS Game 1 win. But overall, the veteran outfielder is hitting .220/.273/.293 in 41 at-bats. The trio of hitters has combined for 30 strikeouts with just one long ball between them.
In Game 1 of the series, Aaron Nola gets the start for the Phillies while Justin Verlander will start for the Astros.
Nola pitched phenomenally in his first two postseason starts against the Cardinals and Braves. Against St. Louis in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series, he gave up four hits and fanned six in nearly seven innings of shutout baseball. In Game 3 of the NLDS against Atlanta, he went six innings, allowing five hits and striking out six in scoreless baseball once again. He was touched up in his most recent outing, giving up six runs in less than five innings in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Padres, taking the loss.
In his first postseason start, Verlander was lit up in Game 1 of the ALDS against Seattle. The veteran gave up six runs off 10 hits and only pitched four innings. His second start was much better. In Game 1 of the ALCS against the Yankees, he pitched six innings, giving up just a single run off three hits. He also struck out 11 and walked just one batter.
For Game 2, the Phillies have already announced that Zac Wheeler will take the hill. The Astros have yet to officially tab a starter for the second game. Framber Valdez seems to be the likely choice given he has immediately followed Verlander in the past two series.
In four postseason starts this year, Wheeler has been excellent. His first start came in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series against the Cardinals. He pitched 6 1/3 innings of shutout baseball, allowing just two hits in a winning effort. In Game 2 of the NLDS against Atlanta, he delivered another quality start, going six innings and surrendering three earned runs. Wheeler’s third postseason start was without a doubt his most dominant. He started Game 1 of the NLCS against the Padres, going seven innings without allowing a run. He allowed just one baserunner and struck out eight in the process. In Game 5 of the series, he pitched six innings, giving up two earned runs off three hits and striking out eight.
Starting in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Mariners, Valdez went nearly six innings, allowing two runs off four hits. He struck out six batters and walked three. His second postseason start was a more characteristic showing. He started Game 2 of the ALCS against the Yankees, going seven innings without allowing an earned run and picking up the win. He drastically improved his command, striking out nine batters while not walking any.
Neither team has announced their probables for the rest of the series.
World Series Schedule
Game 1: Friday, Oct. 28, 8:03 p.m. EST / Minute Maid Park in Houston, TX
Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 29, 8:03 p.m. EST / Minute Maid Park in Houston, TX
Game 3: Monday, Oct. 31, 8:03 p.m. EST / Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA
Game 4: Tuesday, Nov. 1, 8:03 p.m. EST / Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA
Game 5 (if necessary): Wednesday, Nov. 2, 8:03 p.m. EST / Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA
Game 6 (if necessary): Friday, Nov. 4, 8:03 p.m. EST / Minute Maid Park in Houston, TX
Game 7 (if necessary): Saturday, Nov. 5, 8:03 p.m. EST / Minute Maid Park in Houston, TX
The World Series will be televised on Fox with the following crew: Joe Davis (play-by-play), John Smoltz (analyst), Ken Rosenthal (reporter), Tom Verducci (reporter).
The national radio broadcast will be on ESPN with the following crew: Dan Shulman (play-by-play), Jessica Mendoza (analyst), Eduardo Perez (analyst), Buster Olney (reporter).