HOUSTON — The World Series stage is set, and it's one team everyone thought would be there, the Houston Astros, and another team that everyone except maybe NL East fans are really excited got there, the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies, who came into the playoffs with the lowest chance of any playoff team to win the World Series, according to oddsmakers, are a feel good story after taking down team after team throughout the playoffs.
On the Locked On Sports Today podcast, Locked On Astros podcast host Brett Chancey and Locked On Phillies host Connor Thomas joined Peter Bukowski for a special extended segment to preview the World Series.
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The big question two days ahead of the start of the World Series, who has the edge? While the Astros are favored to win the series, the Phillies have knocked off three teams as underdogs so far in the playoffs.
For Chancey, he said the key for the Astros is going to continue to be strong pitching, especially out of the bullpen.
Since giving up seven runs to the Mariners in Game 1 of the ALDS before staging a massive comeback capped off by a Yordan Alvarez walk-off, the Astros gave up two runs or fewer in five-straight wins before giving up five in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Yankees, a game the Astros won 6-5.
“I think the key is clearly the pitching staff and Houston’s relief pitchers, who have only given up three runs in 30 innings in the postseason. It's been Hunter Brown, it's been Hector Neris, Montero, Stanek,” Chancey said. “Astros closer Ryan Pressly is 9 for 9 in saves in the postseason, he has been impeccable. I think our pitching is key and the way that Dusty Baker has deployed the pitchers, relief pitchers, the starters, it has been a masterclass and I think it is probably Dusty's best handling of a bullpen in his entire career.”
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So how can the Phillies counter that? Well, they’ve been extremely successful at the plate this postseason, averaging more than five runs per game. Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper is batting a whopping .419 average at the plate this postseason with five homers, six doubles and 11 RBIs.
Locked On Phillies host Connor Thomas said Harper is the best player on the planet right now, and the supporting cast has been great as well.
“Bryce Harper is the best player on planet Earth right now, and he's absolutely unbelievable. So any time he comes to the plate, you feel like you have a chance for something special to happen,” Thomas said. “Outside of him, this team has been really good in clutch moments and grinding out at bats especially some of the young players Bryson Stott has had some really huge at bats pitch count wise and just feeding gaps over and over."
"They have the guys that aren't going to get you the big hit very often, but still are going to give you really big at bats," Thomas continued. "So that's the saving grace of this lineup of the guys who are not the big names. They're at least going to trouble you with the pitch count if they're not the ones getting the big hits.”
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The Astros are a great hitting team as well. While they aren’t averaging as many runs as the Phillies are this postseason, this is a team that can attack at the plate. The Phillies have a number of very talented arms, including a bullpen that features multiple pitchers who can hit 100 MPH. What’s going to be the key for Houston at the plate?
“I think the key is to their approach,” Chancey said. “The weakness for guys like Jose Altuve is they get outside of themselves. They swung a lot. There was the one game where he was 0-for-7 where they ended up beating the Mariners. But of the 25 pitches he saw, 18 of them were outside of the zone and he didn't hit a single one of them…This team has to force the pitchers to bring the ball into that strike zone. And I think guys like Jeremy Pena, they've got to lay off the low sliders. They got to stay off the pitches away. If they don't expand the zone too much force of Phillies pitches in, I think that's a recipe for success.”
So how do these guys see how the series plays out?
“The key to this series is going to be Dusty Baker and how he deploys the bullpen,” Chancey said. “The starters going to have to avoid mistakes early because this Phillies offense isn’t going to be as impotent as the Yankees were…I think if the Astros can score 4-5 runs per game, the pitching holds it down and they’re able to beat Philadelphia.”
“For the Phillies, the wild card is going to be about the atmosphere, about the fans,” Thomas said. “It’s Citizens Bank Park, it’s the best home field advantage in sports right now and you’ve got to play three games in Philly. The Phillies are undefeated at home in the postseason, and I understand the Astros haven’t lost a game in the postseason, but the Phillies have been perfect at home because of the environment…On that field, they just seem unbeatable.”
The World Series begins Friday, Oct. 28 in Houston for Game 1. First pitch is slated for 8:03 p.m. on FOX.