PHILADELPHIA — Home is where the pain is for the Astros of this era. In four World Series appearances dating back to 2017, they are an uncharacteristic 4-8 at Minute Maid Park, and they watched the 2019 Nationals and 2021 Braves celebrate a World Series championship on a field that should have belonged to them.
So on Saturday night, when Game 6 of the epic Fall Classic showdown with the Phillies begins, the Astros — who enter with a 3-2 advantage — have the opportunity to do something unusual not just for them, but for MLB, as of late. In fact, we haven’t seen a team win the title on their home field since the 2013 Red Sox, the longest road winning streak in World Series history.
“One more win,” said Ryan Pressley, who finished Games 4 and 5 and hopes to close out another, “and we’re down to [lift] that trophy over our heads. But the job isn’t done right now. We just have to keep working out there, have good at-bats, combine quality pitches and let the chips fall where they may.”
Standing in their way is a Phillies team that squandered its chance to take advantage of this series at Citizens Bank Park — first by no-hitting Christian Javier and Co. in Game 4 on Wednesday, then by stranding 12 baserunners in a one-run loss in game 5 on Thursday.
“It’s the ebb and flow of the game, and sometimes you go through times where you don’t hit with runners in scoring position, and then three days later, everybody’s getting hits,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “So we just have to keep fighting, that’s all.”
It’s a fall classic that lives up to its name. In Game 6, with ace weapons on the mound in the form of Framber Valdez of the Astros and Zack Wheeler of the Phillies, we’ll see if Philly can take it to the Game 7 this series seems to deserve, or if Houston can finally bring it at home.
When is the match and how can I watch it?
Game 6, which will air on FOX at 8 PM ET/7 CT, is set for Saturday.
All games are available in the US on MLB.TV (authentication to participating Pay TV provider required). Live games are also available in select countries outside the US. For full details click here.
Who are the starting pitchers?
Phyllis: Wheeler (1-2, 2.67 ERA in five postseason starts) will begin Game 6 on six days’ rest after struggling and experiencing a drop in velocity in Game 2. Wheeler’s fastball dropped from an average of 97 mph in his first four playoff starts to 95.2 mph Saturday at Minute Maid Park, where he allowed five runs in five innings. (His fastball averaged 95.8 mph during the regular season.) Wheeler said he was experiencing arm fatigue. After throwing a scrimmage Thursday in Philadelphia, he said he felt “good,” though he also said he wasn’t sure whether or not he would return to his previous form after the season. “Time will tell,” he said.
Astros: Valdez (2-0, 1.42 ERA) will make his fourth start of the postseason and second of the World Series – with a chance to win the championship for Houston. In a Game 2 win over the Phillies on Saturday, he allowed one run on four hits and three walks while striking out nine in 6 1/3 innings. He gave up five runs (three earned) on 12 hits and six walks in 19 innings in the playoffs as the Astros won all three games.
“I think I’m just going to try to keep doing what I’ve been doing all season,” Valdes said. “Just try to attack the hitters early, try to breathe, try to stay calm, try to meditate. This is something really exciting. I think it’s something that really adds a lot to your career and I’m really excited about this opportunity.”
What might the starting lineups look like?
Phyllis: Thomson has used a right-handed and left-handed lineup throughout the postseason. The lineup against lefty starters includes center fielder Matt Virling and shortstop Edmundo Sosa. But Thomson allowed Bryson Stott to start Game 6 over Sosa because he had some long, quality at-bats in the playoffs. But until Thomson does that, we’ll assume he’ll stick with the line-up he used against the southpaws.
Astros: The big question is the health of first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who left Game 5 after spraining his right knee on a hit during the game. It would be hard to imagine that would be enough to keep Gurriel out of the lineup in a potential clinch. Whether Trey Mancini, Aledmys Diaz or David Hensley will start at forward is anyone’s guess.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Phyllis: It will be an all-hands situation in Game 6. It starts with Thomson’s most trusted high-leverage relievers, of course. But Thomson said Thursday that they won’t know if left-hander Ranger Suarez will start Game 7 (if needed) on Sunday night because there’s a chance he might have to come out before then. Will Thomson really use Suárez in Game 6? If there is an opportunity to extend the Fall Classic to a final game, the answer might be yes.
Astros: Houston went deep in its bullpen in Games 4 and 5, but with a day off on Friday, Dusty Baker should be able to reset his bullpen for Game 6. Pressley threw a total of 45 strikes in Games 4 and 5, Montero threw 27 in the same span and Abreu threw 32. Hector Neris, the Astros’ fourth high-leverage player this postseason, threw 11 pitches in Game 5 after not appearing in Game 4. If they need length, Jose Urquidi and Luis Garcia are well rested.
Phyllis: Philadelphia is healthy entering Game 6, although Wheeler is experiencing fatigue in his right arm.
Astros: Gurriel left Game 5 in the eighth inning with discomfort in his right knee suffered during a collision in a rundown inning earlier. He is expected to play in Game 6.
Who’s hot and who’s not?
Phyllis: Philadelphia snapped a 20-game hitting streak with runners in scoring position on Jean Segura’s eighth-inning single. The Phils will have to do much better in Game 6 to force a deciding Game 7. … The bullpen has a 1.14 ERA in the World Series, striking out 28 and walking 7 in 23 2/3 innings.
Astros: Peña, the ALCS MVP, is making a bid for World Series MVP after going 8-for-21 with a homer and three RBIs in five games. … Altuve shook off his poor playoff start by going 7-for-22 in the World Series, though he has yet to pitch in a Series. … Gurriel is 6-for-19 in the World Series. … Among those who hit in the Fall Classic are Maldonado (3-for-13), Bregman (4-for-18), Tucker (4-for-18) and Alvarez (2-for-19).
Anything else fans would like to know?
In postseason series with the current 2-3-2 format that are tied 2-2, teams that win Game 5 on the road before returning home for Games 6 and 7 have finished the series victorious 19 of 24 times (79 %) .
In that case, the Phillies would like to join this list:
Won a best of 7 World Series, going 6-7 on the road
2019 Nationals at Astros
2016 Cubs at Indians
1979 Pirates at Orioles
1968 Tigers at Cardinals
1958 Yankees at Braves
1952 Yankees at Dodgers
1934 Cardinals at Tigers
1926 Cardinals at Yankees