October 4, 2023

Phils drop second straight in World Series, fail to take opportunity of solid day from bullpen


Charles Fox/Philadelphia Inquirer

The home crowd’s support is always great, but what happens in the dugout, on the field, and in the clubhouse is the most important. When Jose Altuve doubled and reached third base on an error by Brandon Marsh on just the second pitch of the game, the Phillies brought their infielders onto the grass.

At this point in the game, the tone was set.

Coming into game five of the World Series, the Phillies had eleven consecutive hitless innings, and the Astros were sending ace Justin Verlander to the mound. Meanwhile, a depleted Phillies’ bullpen was set to pitch behind Noah Syndergaard, who was only expected to throw three innings.

It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but the Astros needed just two players to get the 3-2 win on Thursday—Justin Verlander and Jeremy Pena. Verlander, 39, threw five dominant innings of one-run ball, while Pena, a 25-year-old rookie, knocked in all three of the Astros’ runs.

The age difference is there, but despite their experience (or lack thereof), they’ve both emerged as superstars in 2022. Both went about their business in different ways, but they did enough to give the Astros a one-game advantage as they fly back to their home turf.

Verlander started just one game between 2020 and 2021, so the expectations for the veteran were all over the place. Nonetheless, he posted a career year in the regular season and is the frontrunner to win the third Cy Young award of his career. Surprisingly, this was the first time Verlander earned a win in the World Series in his entire 17-year career.

Unlike Verlander, Pena came into the 2022 spotlight in his first year after starting the season as one of the best rookies in baseball. His success continued into October, and now, November. Pena, who also won the Championship Series MVP for the American League, became the first rookie shortstop to homer in a World Series game.

In the fourth inning, with the game tied, Noah Syndergaard was sent to the mound to start his fourth inning against Pena, but as it turns out, Rob Thomson left him in one batter too long. Syndergaard’s two-strike breaking ball was hung over the plate, and Pena was sure to exemplify Syndergaard’s mistake.

Kyle Schwarber’s line-drive home run off Justin Verlander in the first inning was the only offensive production the Phils could create until their eighth-inning rally. Jean Segura poked an RBI single to cut Houston’s deficit to one, but Ryan Pressly retired Brandon Marsh and Schwarber to leave the tying run in scoring position.

The eighth inning stood out the most, but situational hitting was a problem all night for the Phillies. As a team, the Phils left twelve runners on base and had just one hit in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position, Segura’s RBI single in the eighth inning. position.

Pressly’s save recorded the first time he got five outs in a save situation this season, and Astros’ manager Dusty Baker couldn’t have picked a better time to take a risk with their star closer.

The Phillies’ relievers, actually, were able to stick with the Astros’, but it was no easy task compared to a flawless Houston ‘pen. Connor Brogdon, Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, David Robertson, and Zach Eflin relieved Syndergaard and limited the Astros to just one run in six innings against the Phillies’ slowly-improving bullpen.

Unfortunately, the Phillies weren’t able to take advantage of their solid bullpen and use it to steal a win.

With the Phillies down by a game, it would take a sweep in Houston for the Phils to win the World Series. It seems unlikely, as the winner of game five in a tied, best-of-seven series wins the whole series 70% of the time.

But hey, it wouldn’t be the first time the Phillies make an improbable event into a reality, so I guess we’ll all have to keep on watching.

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