The Phillies are red-hot, but the Astros are even hotter. Houston has yet to lose in the postseason, and have won all sorts of ways — low-scoring games, high-scoring games, blowouts, extra innings, etc. — and don’t expect that to change. The same can be said for Philadelphia, though. So even though Houston has the better playoff record, both teams are playing great baseball.
As for the offenses, it’s really darn even, but Philly has the slight edge. Not only have the Phillies scored the most runs so far this postseason, they have the best hitter this postseason in Bryce Harper. Harper was the NLCS MVP after hitting .400 with two home runs — including the go-ahead home run in Game 5 — and five RBI, and San Diego learned the hard way what happens when you pitch to a locked-in Harper. Harper has also reached base in all 11 postseason games and leads all postseason hitters in hits (18) and doubles (six), and is tied for first with five home runs.
But Harper isn’t the only one getting it done for the Phillies. Rhys Hoskins has five home runs and 11 RBIs during the playoffs and Kyle Schwarber has four home runs and has walked 11 times. The Phillies lineup isn’t just deep, it’s powerful too.
However, the Astros offense is legit as well. ALCS MVP Jeremy Pena slashed .353/.353/.824/1.176 OPS with two home runs and two doubles during the Championship Series, and both Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel are hitting over .300 with two home runs apiece this postseason. And don’t forget about Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker. Both hit over 30 home runs and drove in 97+ runs during the regular season, and might just be a problem for a Phillies starting staff that lacks a true southpaw stud.
As for the pitching staffs, Houston’s is better. Zack Wheeler has been great all postseason — 1-1 with a 1.78 ERA in four starts — but after Wheeler, the Phillies don’t have a whole lot. Aaron Nola has been solid during the playoffs and is a legit No. 2 starter, but that’s where it ends for Philly.
Meanwhile the Astros have future Hall of Famer and AL Cy Young frontrunner in Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Lance McCullers Jr. and Cristian Javier. Verlander struck out 11 and allowed just one run in Game 1 of the ALCS vs. New York, Valdez set an MLB record with 25 straight quality starts during the regular season and has allowed just two earned runs in two postseason starts, and both Javier and McCullers have been solid so far this postseason. Verlander is the clear-cut ace of the staff, but Valdez, McCullers and Javier aren’t that far behind.
As for the bullpens, well, Houston has the edge there, too. The Astros bullpen has allowed just three runs over 33 innings in the playoffs, and it’s not like they’re relying on just one or two guys to get the final 6-9 outs. Closer Ryan Pressly is the guy Dusty Baker trusts the most, but don’t forget about Bryan Abreu, Hector Neris and Rafael Montero. Abreu hasn’t allowed a run in the postseason, and both Montero and Abreu have three holds so far this postseason.
The Phillies bullpen has been better than expected so far this postseason, but don’t forget Philly led the National League in blown saves. David Robertson, Ranger Suarez, Jose Alvarado and Seranthony Dominguez have great stuff, but they’ve struggled at times too. And against a team like Houston, one bad outing can make the difference in winning or losing the World Series.
Philadelphia is definitely the better base-running team, and maybe more important, has the best defensive catcher left in the playoffs. JT Realmuto is a former Gold Glove winner, and led MLB catchers this season in pop time and caught stealing percentage. Houston isn’t a team that really likes to run, but still, having a catcher like Realmuto gives Philly a big advantage.
But enough of analyzing both teams, let’s get down to business. Who are we taking to win the World Series? And the answer … the Houston Astros.