PHILADELPHIA — Home was the pain point for the Astros of that era. In four World Series appearances since 2017, they’re an uncharacteristic 4-8 at Minute Maid Park, and they watched the 2019 Nationals and the 2021 Braves celebrate a World Series championship on a field that should be theirs.
So when Game 6 of the epic Fall Classic duel begins with the Phillies on Saturday night, the Astros — who start by a 3-2 lead — will have an opportunity to do something unusual, not just for them, but for the MLB, in last time. We haven’t seen a team win the title on their home field since the 2013 Red Sox, the longest streak of road clinchers in World Series history.
“One more win,” said Ryan Pressly, who finished games 4 and 5 and is hoping to wrap up one more, “and we’ll do it [lift] this trophy over our heads. But the work is not done yet. We just have to keep going out, have good shots, put quality courts together and drop the chips where they can.
Standing in their way is a Phillies team that blew their chance to win that series at Citizens Bank Park – first by going unpunched in Game 4 by Cristian Javier and company on Wednesday, then by losing 12 baserunners in one run stranded loss in Game 5 on Thursday.
“It’s the ups and downs of the game and sometimes you go through periods where you don’t score with runners in goal position and then three days later everyone gets hit,” said Phillies manager Rob Thomson. “So we just have to keep fighting, that’s all.”
This was a fall classic that lives up to its name. In Game 6, with ace weapons on the mound in the form of Astros’ Framber Valdez and Phillies’ Zack Wheeler, we’ll see if Philly can make it to the Game 7 that this series seems to have deserved, or if Houston can can finally bring home.
When is the game and how can I see it?
Game 6, which will air on FOX at 8 p.m. ET/7 CT, is scheduled for Saturday.
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Who are the starting pitchers?
Phillies: Wheeler (1-2, 2.67 ERA in five postseason starts) will start Game 6 on six rest days after struggling in Game 2 and experiencing a drop in speed. Wheeler’s fastball speed dropped from an average of 97 mph in his first four playoff starts at 95.2 mph Saturday at Minute Maid Park, where he allowed five runs in five innings. (His fastball averaged 95.8 mph in the regular season.) Wheeler said he had arm fatigue. After throwing a bullpen session in Philadelphia on Thursday, he said he was feeling “good,” although he also said he wasn’t sure if he’d return to previous postseason form or not. “Time will tell,” he said.
Astros: Valdez (2-0, 1.42 ERA) will make his fourth start of the postseason and second in the World Series – with a chance to win the championship for Houston. In a Game 2 win against the Phillies on Saturday, he allowed a run with four hits and three walks and hit nine in 6 1/3 innings. He has given up five runs (three earned) on 12 hits and six walks in 19 innings in the playoffs, with the Astros winning all three games.
“I think I’ll just try to continue what I’ve been doing all season,” Valdez said. “Just try to attack thugs early, try to breathe, try to stay calm, try to meditate. It’s something that’s really exciting. I think it’s something that really adds a lot to your career and I’m really looking forward to this opportunity.”
What could the starting line-ups look like?
Phillies: Thomson has used one right-handed and one left-handed lineup throughout the postseason. The left-handed lineup includes midfielder Matt Vierling and shortstop Edmundo Sosa. But Thomson left the possibility that Bryson Stott could start Game 6 over Sosa because he had some long, quality bats in the playoffs. But until Thomson does that, we’re assuming he’ll continue with the lineup he used against southpaws.
Astros: The big question is the health of first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who retired from Game 5 after straining his right knee in a rundown collision. It would be hard to imagine that being enough to keep Gurriel out of the lineup in a potential clincher. It is unclear whether Trey Mancini, Aledmys Díaz or David Hensley will start as designated hitters.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Phillies: In Game 6 there will be an all hands on deck situation. It starts, of course, with Thomson’s most trusted high-leverage relievers. But Thomson said Thursday they won’t know if left-hander Ranger Suárez will start Game 7 on Sunday night (if necessary) due to the possibility he’ll be needed to pitch before then. Would Thomson really use Suárez in Game 6? If there’s an opportunity to expand the fall classic into a definitive game, the answer might be yes.
Astros: Houston went deep into his bullpen in Games 4 and 5, but with a day off Friday, Dusty Baker should be able to reset his pen for Game 6. Pressly threw 45 total pitches in Games 4 and 5, Montero threw 27 in the same span and Abreu threw 32. Héctor Neris, the Astros’ fourth strong helper this postseason, threw 11 pitches in Game 5 after failing in Game 4 was there. If they need length, Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia are well rested.
Phillies: Philadelphia goes healthy into Game 6, despite Wheeler suffering from right arm fatigue.
Astros: Gurriel exited Game 5 in the eighth inning with a right knee injury sustained during a collision in a rundown an inning earlier. He is expected to play in Game 6.
Who is hot and who isn’t?
Phillies: Philadelphia nabbed a hitless streak of 20 at-bats with runners in goal position with an eighth inning single from Jean Segura. The Phils need to do much better in Game 6 to force a crucial Game 7. … The bullpen has a 1.14 ERA in the World Series, knocking out 28 and walking seven in 23 2/3 innings.
Astros: ALCS MVP Peña is attempting to win World Series MVP after going 8-for-21 in five games with one homer and three RBIs. … Altuve has shrugged off his pathetic playoff start by going 7-for-22 in the World Series, though he has yet to race. … Gurriel is 6-for-19 in the World Series. … Among those who tussled in the Classic case are Maldonado (3 on 13), Bregman (4 on 18), Tucker (4 on 18) and Alvarez (2 on 19).
Is there anything else fans would like to know?
In postseason series with the current 2-3-2 format, tied 2-2, teams that won Game 5 away before returning home for Games 6 and 7 won the series in 19 of 24 cases won (79%). .
In that case, the Phillies would try to join this list:
Won the best-of-7 World Series by winning games 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