A World Series no one was expecting

AL top seeded Astros face the Phillies, who snuck into the playoffs as the NL’s lowest seeded team before catching fire


Courtesy of Popsync

Houston Astros Jose Altuve, seen here in last year’s World Series loss to the Atlanta Braves, hopes his team can win its second title since 2017 when the World Series starts Friday night. Houston is the AL’s top seed, while the Philadelphia Phillies are the No. 6 seed from the NL.

This World Series matchup is unexpected to say the least.

Coming out of the American League is the Houston Astros, the top seed who were the favorites all along. But in the National League there is the ultimate dark-horse Philadelphia Phillies, the No. 6 seed who made the playoffs by a single game.

Both of these teams had dominant postseason runs leading up to the biggest stage, and we should expect some fireworks as Game 1 opens on Friday. The World Series starts on FOX at 5:03  p.m.

The Phillies are back to the World Series for the first time since 2009, and the perennial contenders in the Astros, who have reached the series four times (2017, 2019, 2021-2022) in the past six seasons. But the Astros only title came in 2017 and will be forever tainted by the sign-stealing scandal that led to the suspension and ultimate firing of general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch. The club also was fined $5 million and lost their first and second round draft picks in 2021 and 2022.

The Astros have yet to lose this postseason and are led by their fantastic core of 3B Alex Bregman, 2B Jose Altuve, and OF/DH Yordan Alvarez. Their young shortstop and Rookie of the Year finalist Jeremy Pena has been a big performer, winning the ALCS MVP with his clutch three-run home run in Game 4 to help sweep the New York Yankees. Houston also swept the Seattle Mariners in the ALDS.

The Astros pitching also has been performing well. Their two top dogs in the rotation so far have been Christian Javier, who has a 1.35 postseason ERA, and Framber Valdez (1.42 ERA). Future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander has had a rough postseason so far with a 6.30 ERA, but I expect him to pitch like the savvy vet he is and step it up when it matters the most. 

Closer Ryan Pressley has been spectacular in the postseason as well, appearing in five games and recording four saves, while allowing only two hits. The Astros are favorites in the World Series because of their playoff experience and pedigree. This could also be 73-year-old Dusty Baker’s best chance to finally win a title as manager. He has the most regular season wins (2.093) without a championship, having managed the Astros and Giants when they lost in 2021 and 2002, respectively.

The Phillies have been on a hitting rampage led by OF Bryce Harper, who has had a postseason for the history books by hitting .419 with a whopping five home runs and 11 RBIs. He leads the Phillies in the postseason in virtually every hitting stat as Philly blew past the Padres in five games and the defending-champion Atlanta Braves in four games.

1B/DH Rhys Hoskins has had one of the oddest stat lines ever, going 4-for-18 in the NLCS with all four of his hits being home runs. In Game 4 of the NLCS against the San Diego Padres, he hit two home runs that powered the Phillies to a 3-1 series lead. The Phillies also have the huge power threat LF Kyle Schwarber, who has struggled a little bit but has still provided his power hitting with three home runs this postseason, all coming in the NLCS. 

The top of their rotation is what has kept the Phillies alive. Zach Wheeler and Aaron Nola are one of the best one-two punches around. Nola has a 3.12 era, inflated by having a terrible Game 2 in San Diego, giving up six runs. Wheeler has been the ace, posting a 1.78 era in the playoffs. In the bullpen, watch for Jose Alvarado and Seranthony Dominguez, their two hard throwing closers.

Prediction: I think this will be a very close World Series and an entertaining matchup, but in the end I have the Astros winning in six games. The Phillies offense is hot but also ineffective with only two players hitting above .250. They may hit a lot of home runs but what happens when the power runs out and they have to rely on having team at bats and driving in runs elsewhere? 

The Astros pitching staff also is much stronger and has the postseason experience. When teams get deep in tight ball games, they’re going to want the best arms available. The Phillies pitching staff, especially the bullpen, has been a question mark all year. The Astros pen is the better of the two and that should be the difference.