PHILADELPHIA — The Houston Astros are guaranteed at least one more game in their own ballpark.
The goal now is to head back home with a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven World Series.
After Houston no-hit the Phillies in Game 4 on Wednesday to even the series at two wins apiece, the teams will face off on Thursday in the final contest at Philadelphia.
Cristian Javier, Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly combined to hold the Phillies hitless in the Astros’ 5-0 victory on Wednesday.
It was a major turnaround from one night earlier when the Phillies bashed five home runs and won 7-0.
“It’s a strange series,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
Houston regained the positive momentum from the second no-hitter in World Series history. The New York Yankees’ Don Larsen threw a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.
Whether it was a no-hitter or a 13-12 slugfest, the Astros simply needed a win.
Now they’ll turn to presumptive American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander to give them an edge.
Verlander (18-4, 1.75 ERA regular season; 1-0, 7.20 ERA postseason) struggled in Game 1 as he allowed five runs in five innings.
His World Series history has been ugly: 0-6 in eight starts with a 6.07 ERA that is the worst ever among pitchers who threw at least 30 innings in the Fall Classic.
After watching film, Verlander believes that he is ready to bounce back in a big way.
“I think a lot of times the execution follows mechanics,” he said. “So, yeah, I did find some mechanical things that I needed to clean up. I’ve been working really hard since then. But there’s really no way to know how it’s going until you get in the game and see the hitters’ reactions.
“So you work as hard as you possibly can, you take that into practice, you see how it feels.”
The Astros have the utmost confidence in their ace.
“He’s locked in,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “He’s focused. He’s ready to go. He’s ready to compete.”
The Phillies, meanwhile, will look to respond from their first home loss in the 2022 postseason following six consecutive wins.
“They’ll come back and prep and compete like they always do,” Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson said of his players.
The Phillies were no-hit by five New York Mets pitchers on April 29 but responded to win the next day.
“We’ve just got to go get it tomorrow,” Phillies designated hitter Bryce Harper said.
Philadelphia will hand the ball to Noah Syndergaard (10-10, 3.94 ERA regular season; 0-0, 1.69 postseason).
Syndergaard was scheduled to start Game 3 on Monday before the contest was postponed due to rain. Ranger Suarez got the start instead and threw five scoreless innings, with Syndergaard pushed back to Game 5.
The veteran right-hander said that he is prepared no matter the circumstances.
“Yeah, I just try to go out there and have success in whichever role they choose to use me in,” Syndergaard said. “I think it’s going to be really cool to have the opportunity to go toe to toe with Justin Verlander.”
Thomson said he hopes Syndergaard can last at least three innings.
Syndergaard is excited for the opportunity considering that he just joined the Phillies from the Los Angeles Angels in an Aug. 2 trade.
“This year’s just been kind of a whirlwind for me,” he said. “I think anybody that gets traded in the middle of the year, used as like a rental piece, it kind of puts anybody out of their comfort zone. But I think it’s really helped me grow as a person and as a pitcher.”
–By Andy Jasner, Field Level Media