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After seven grueling months, the stage is set for the World Series. The Houston Astros will meet the Philadelphia Phillies for seven games (at most) to determine who will take the Commissioner’s Trophy home for the 2022 season.
Both teams took radically different paths to get here but now that they’ve arrived, it’s time to break down their roads and what they need to do to be crowned as the 2022 World Series Champions.
Player To Watch: Shortstop Jeremy Peña
The last few years have seen the Houston Astros become not just an annual playoff team, but really perennial favorites to the win the American League pennant. The Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees tried to take down the top team in the American League, but both were ultimately swept as Houston punched their ticket back to the World Series. One year after watching the Atlanta Braves celebrate winning the Fall Classic across the field from them, Houston finds themselves back against a different National League East team.
The story of Houston this year has been their pitching. This season, Houston had the second lowest earned run average in baseball (2.90), allowed the second least amount of hits (1,121) and had the fourth most strikeouts (1,524). With three starters having 15 wins or more, no starter having 10 losses and one of baseball’s best bullpens, it’s been hard to get one past Houston.
While it’s easy to say to talk about designated hitter Yordan Alvarez or second baseman Jose Altuve as an x-factor, one name that the baseball world is learning is shortstop Jeremy Peña. After taking over the role following Carlos Correa’s departure in the preseason, Peña had himself a nice 2022 regular season with a .253 batting average, three triples, 11 stolen bases, 22 home runs and 63 runs batted in. However, it was his performance in the American League Championship Series that put him on the map, hitting .353 with two home runs, earning him the Most Valuable Player honor of the ALCS.
To say Houston is dangerous is an understatement. Their top five pitching and top ten hitting makes them a threat in every way. It’s no wonder they’re once again considered favorites to win the World Series.
Player To Watch: Designated Hitter Bryce Harper
On June 3 the Philadelphia Phillies were 23-29, leading to dismissal of manager Joe Girardi and Rob Thomson being named as their interim manager. From there, Philadelphia went on a tear and found themselves in the final wild card spot. Now, after upsets of the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres, they find themselves playing for the World Series.
The best way to describe Philadelphia’s offense is bursty. What this means is this offense gets its runs in bursts in an inning, rather than just one per inning. They usually pick on mistakes by the pitcher and drive in two or more in an inning, which also leads to innings where they don’t get any runs. It’s a risky way of scoring and playing the game, but there are rewards to it.
It was easy to say that designated hitter Bryce Harper hadn’t elevated Philadelphia to the level they wanted to be at, despite being the MVP last season. That changed this season when he let other pieces, like outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos, as well as third baseman Alec Bohm do their thing. This has let Harper just turn into a beast in the playoffs. A lot of the success this team has started with him, as he leads the team in most offensive categories this postseason.
This year’s World Series is going to be an interesting one, mimicking last year’s series where an underdog team from the National League East was facing a favored Houston Astros team. Last year, it worked out in favor of the Atlanta Braves, unfortunately, it’s hard to see Philadelphia doing the same.
One could look at the final series of the regular season, where Houston lost the first game, only to dismantle Philadelphia in the last two. While telling, it’s not even that which would lead to picking Houston as World Series champions.
Houston is a much better balanced team, with extremely strong pitching and a more than solid lineup. Philadelphia’s biggest strength is similar in a way to the New York Yankees, who Houston just shut down. Houston should lose their first postseason game in the World Series, and maybe drawing blood would inspire Philadelphia, but it’s hard to pick against Houston here.
Dusty Baker, after almost 30 years, should finally get that World Series ring as a manager.
Houston defeats Philadelphia, 4 games to 1