I’m a Phillies fan, but let me start by stating the obvious- they are the underdog. The 106 win, home field holding, fourth World Series appearance in six years, throwing a future Hall-of-Famer tonight, and haven’t lost a postseason game yet Astros have to be favored. It’s not a close call on paper. Houston is the favorite.
So why even play it? Give them that second championship now. Yeah, the Phillies have had a nice run, but they haven’t been here in 13 Octobers, they can’t possibly pull this off, right? Figure Astros in five, obviously.
42 years ago, in the Astrodome, the Phillies beat the Nolan Ryan in game 5 of the NLCS, then went on to win it all. Close to a month ago (seriously), they gave Houston their last loss to date, clinching the final spot in the playoffs. At that time, Bryce Harper was dead cold, and the fan confidence in these Phillies was pretty damn low. Aaron Nola pitched, as he will tonight, and he was about as good as humanly possible. Since then, the Phillies ended the careers of Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, and maybe Adam Wainwright. The Phillies ended the season of the team that beat the Astros in last year’s World Series, the 101 win Atlanta Braves. Then for good measure, they took down the Manny Machado, Juan Soto, and Yu Darvish show to get here. Funny thing is, I think some in the press would give any of those three teams more of a chance in this series than the Phillies. But I know, we only won 87 games, this is a crime against baseball.
In all seriousness though, the Astros are good. They absolutely rolled the Yankees for the third time in six years. You’re watching a historic group that is going for that second title together. Four World Series in six years is not something you’ll see often again. This is easily on par with Joe Torre’s Yankees. They deserve to be favored. As they did against Atlanta. As they did against Washington.
The Phillies will get at least four starts from Nola and Wheeler if this goes seven games, and they’ll need to be great. If they get less than two wins from them, the series is going to Houston. They probably need three wins. They also need Bryce Harper to keep being the best player in baseball, Kyle Schwarber to play like the home run champion that has a ring of his own. Hoskins and Realmuto have to be really great too. Houston just needs to do what San Diego failed at- beating the middle of the Phillies rotation. Jose Altuve waking up could kill the Phillies too.
With all of that said, the pressure is on Houston to win that second, frankly clean title. The Phillies are as capable as any team they’ve met in a World Series so far, especially right now. They’re on a magical run. I’m a Phillies fan, but I haven’t picked them in every round. I am now. Phillies in seven.