Phillies’ World Series Game 1 win shows Astros aren’t invincible

This was the year baseball finally told pitchers to throw away their bats forever. The designated hitter, loved by some and despised by others, would be the law of the country in all major league countries.

Fans delight in questioning the manager and now much of that simple pleasure would be gone. No more arguing whether the manager should have batted for the pitcher. No more discussion about the double switch.

In this year of diminished strategy, Game 1 of the World Series blessed us in three ways: first, with an unexpected and entertaining feast of reflection; two, with the tension of extra innings; and third, by destroying the notion that the Houston Astros are inevitable and invincible.

The Astros won’t go undefeated this postseason. You will not sweep this World Series. They might not even win it.

JT Realmuto watched his fly ball carry over the right fence, then smacked his arm into the sky – er, the stadium roof – as he bounced around the bases. That home run, in the midst of four and a half hours of exciting play, propelled the Philadelphia Phillies to a 6-5 win in 10 innings.

No catcher had hit a World Series home run in extra innings since Carlton Fisk called his walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series and swung to the foul pole.

Houston Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker can't get a glove on a home run by Philadelphia's JT Realmuto.

Houston Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker can’t get a glove on a home run by Philadelphia’s JT Realmuto during the 10th inning on Friday.

(Eric Gay/Associated Press)

The Phillies won 87 games, yes. They’re a third-place team playing in the World Series, for sure.

But Zack Wheeler, who started the National League Championship Series clincher, starts Game 2 here on Saturday. The series then moves to Philadelphia, where the Phillies are undefeated this postseason. A title is not just wishful thinking.

The game might not have progressed into extra innings without an expansive dive from Nick Castellanos, whom the Phillies signed as batsman-designate. Without the new rule, Castellanos might not be in the Phillies. With an injury preventing Bryce Harper from batting, Harper was the DH and Castellanos was in the right field.

With two outs in ninth position and Jose Altuve running from second base, Castellanos rushed in to make a dramatic, if not aesthetic, catch of a pop fly that was hit by Jeremy Peña. That sent the game into extra innings.

Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos makes a dive catch in the ninth to force extra innings in Game 1.

Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos makes a dive catch in the ninth to force extra innings in Game 1.

(Eric Gay/Associated Press)

Phillies manager Rob Thomson managed the first nine innings on purpose. Thomson made it absolutely clear that he had no desire to face Astros hitter Yordan Alvarez with a right-handed backup pitcher. It was as close to “don’t let Alvarez hit you” as you could get without intentionally walking with him.

In the fifth inning, with no one on base and the score tied, Thomson summoned one of his backup aces, left-hander Jose Alvarado, to confront Alvarez. Alvarado caused a pop fly.

In the seventh, with nobody on base and a tie, Thomson challenged one of his starters, left-handed Ranger Suarez, to face Alvarez. Suarez beat Alvarez.

Astros manager Dusty Baker showed no such urgency, letting starter Justin Verlander take the starting shot in goal position against Bryce Harper in the fifth inning — all after Verlander returned a 5-0 lead within 11 batters. Harper was grounded.

Verlander could win his third Cy Young Award next month. He’s made the top five most of the time when it comes to voting — nine times in 16 full seasons. As of Friday, he has started World Series games in three decades.

He hasn’t won one yet.

Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander delivers in the first inning on Oct. 28, 2022.

Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander was set for a 5-0 lead but couldn’t hold it. He has yet to win a World Series game.

(Eric Gay/Associated Press)

He has started Game 1 of the World Series three times. He has yet to book an out in the sixth inning.

The first time, in 2006, prospective Hall of Famers Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen each hit a homer from him.

The second time, in 2012, the Kung Fu Panda (Pablo Sandoval) scored twice in front of him.

The third time wasn’t the appeal. It had to be alarming for the Astros.

In the first three innings, the Astros went 5-0 up, interrupted by two homers from outfielder Kyle Tucker. In the next two innings, the Phillies roared back to tie the score.

That would be all for Verlander, one of the elite pitchers of his generation. His career World Series record: 0-6, with a 6.07 ERA. His career record in Game 1-0-2, with a 10.29 ERA.

In his three starts this postseason, he has a 7.20 ERA. He had two bad starts and one good start. Imagine saying this before Friday: Verlander could get another start if the Phillies can force a Game 5. Phillies’ World Series Game 1 win shows Astros aren’t invincible

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