World Series Game 1 Takeaways: Astros can’t suppress the Phillies’ magic

Philadelphia Phillies' J.T. Realmuto, right, celebrates his solo homer with Philadelphia Phillies Bryce Harper during the 10th inning in Game 1 of baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies. (Eric Gay/AP)

The Houston Astros are all-too-familiar with this World Series team of destiny stuff, having faced – and lost – to the Washington Nationals in 2019 and Atlanta last year in the Fall Classic.

So, suppressing whatever magic the Philadelphia Phillies have conjured up this month right out of the gate was a priority for them Friday, lest the unlikely National League champions find more fuel for their surprising journey.

All went to plan early for the Astros, who swept their way through the division series and league championship series rounds, as Kyle Tucker hit two home runs while Martin Maldonado added an RBI single in the first three innings for a 5-0 lead.

But like they have since the 22-29 start led to the firing of Joe Girardi and promotion of Canadian Rob Thomson, the Phillies just keep coming.

They needed just two innings to erase the early gap against Justin Verlander and then traded bullpen zeroes with the dominant Astros ‘pen. Then, when it looked like Jeremy Pena’s two-out blooper in the ninth would touch green, allowing Jose Altuve to score and walk-off the Phillies, Nick Castellanos charged 76 feet to make a spectacular sliding catch that forced extra innings.

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And it was there that J.T. Realmuto kept the vibes right for the Phillies, opening the 10th by shooting a 97.5 m.p.h. fastball from Luis Garcia over the wall in right, providing the margin of difference in a stunning 6-5 win.

David Robertson, a deadline add that helped lengthen what had been an erratic bullpen, flirted with disaster in the bottom of the 10th, giving up a one-out double to Alex Bregman, walking Yuliesky Gurriel to put two on with two out and uncorking a wild pitch before inducing a game-ending groundout from Aledmys Diaz.

How thin was the margin? Robertson’s 2-0 pitch to Diaz caught the infielder on the left arm, but home-plate umpire James Hoye refused to award him first base, rightly saying that he intentionally moved into the offering.

History suddenly is on the Phillies side, as the team that takes the World Series opener has claimed the championship 63.8 per cent (74 of 116) of the time, and the Astros for the first time this season suddenly find themselves in a hole.

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Staked to a 5-0 lead, three perfect innings already on the board, Justin Verlander couldn’t have been better positioned to put an end to his anomalous World Series woes. Despite a Hall-of-Fame-calibre career and significant success in 14 division series outings and 12 ALCS starts, the 39-year-old right-hander headed into Game 1 with a 5.68 ERA in seven career Fall Classic starts, his teams going 1-6 in those starts.

But his stuff was electric early Friday and he looked set to kill off that narrative, especially after Kyle Tucker’s three-run shot in the third, the right-fielder’s second homer of the game, gave him some big-time breathing room.

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The Astros, though, should have known that big leads haven’t been safe this post-season (the Toronto Blue Jays certainly do), as they erased a four-run deficit during an 8-7 win in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Seattle Mariners.

Add this one to the list, as the Phillies started grinding him down with one out in the fifth, when Rhys Hoskins singled on a fastball to finally put a man on. Verlander recovered to get Realmuto lining out on a slider for the second out, but Bryce Harper singled on a slider down and in. Castellanos followed with an RBI single on a slider well out of zone and then Alec Bohm followed with a two-run double on middle-middle curveball that made it 5-3.

Bryson Stott worked a 10-pitch walk before Jean Segura popped out to finally end the frame.

With a chance to reset, Verlander was right back into trouble to open the fifth as Brandon Marsh led off with a double, Kyle Schwarber walked and Realmuto followed with a two-run double on middle-away curveball that tied the game up. Harper grounded out and Castellanos struck out to end the frame and keep things there, but a contest that looked to be in the bag suddenly became a toss-up.

And Verlander’s career ERA in the World Series now stands at 6.07 in 43 frames.

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A high popper off the bat off Hoskins should have been a very easy out to end the top of the ninth, but the ball popped out of a waiting Jeremy Pena’s glove and he had to make an alert recovery to ensure the inning came to a close.

Astros closer Ryan Pressly, having moments earlier finished off a seven-pitch duel against Kyle Schwarber with a called third strike, wasn’t impressed. He stared daggers at the impressive rookie shortstop, relieved the out was recorded, annoyed it nearly wasn’t.

Free outs are often costly in games of consequence and the Astros already got away with one in the seventh inning, when Schwarber’s 74.9 m.p.h. dribbler deflected off Bryan Abreu’s glove and was bobbled by Altuve for a lucky infield single that should have been an out.

Schwarber eventually stole second while Realmuto and Harper both walked to load the bases, and Hector Neris was brought in to strike out Castellanos and keep the game 5-5.


Get to the World Series, and the well-wishes come from all over the place.

Rob Thomson, for instance, noted that he’d “heard from Dave Keon,” before adding an explainer for a befuddled audience, “if you don’t know who Dave Keon is, he’s a famous Toronto Maple Leaf.”

Keon is a little bit more than that. He was one of the best two-way centres of his era, helping the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup four times in the 1960s, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1986.

Thomson is the fourth manager to take over a team at least seven games under .500 and reach the post-season, joining Dick Howser in 1981 with the Royals, Cito Gaston in 1989 with the Blue Jays and Jim Tracy in 2009 with the Rockies.

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Framber Valdez’s two starts in the World Series last year didn’t go to plan, as he failed to survive the third inning in both Games 1 and 5, allowing five earned runs each time.

The lefty, coming off a terrific season in which he posted a 2.82 ERA over 201.1 innings while allowing 11 homers and 67 walks against 194 strikeouts, starts Game 2 for the Astros and believes he’ll be better for the experience this time around.

“I think last year my emotions got the better of me during the World Series,” he told reporters through an interpreter. “I think the key for this year is just continue doing what I’ve been doing, try not to let the game get away from me, and I think we’ll get good results there.”

Zack Wheeler (2.82 ERA, 153 innings, 13 homers, 34 walks, 163 strikeouts) starts for the Phillies.

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