Rain in Philadelphia on Monday was no surprise. Forecasts looked bad all day, so when MLB announced that Game 3 of the World Series would be postponed approximately an hour before its scheduled start, teams were ready to make changes.
The Astros will keep Lance McCullers Jr. as their Game 3 starter. this series, or use the unexpected day off to bring back Game 1 starter Justin Verlander? They chose to go with the former: one, because Javier is a really solid option, and two, because Verlander could use the extra day.
“It would probably be to his advantage,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said of Verlander’s extra day off.
The situation was a little more complicated for the Phillies. The ideal third starter for this team is Ranger Suárez. But since he was used as a relief in Game 1, they had originally decided to push his start back a day in Game 4, meaning they would have to use a bullpen play led by Noah Syndergaard for the match 3. An unexpected day off changed the reckoning there. Suárez can now go Tuesday for Game 3, and ace Aaron Nola can get a regular rest for Game 4, which should be a huge boon for them. But there’s a twist: This format might have you expecting Game 2 starter Zack Wheeler to come out for Game 5. That’s not going to happen, Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. Wheeler struggled on his last outing, getting hit early due to falling speed, and they decided to give him an extra day off. Wheeler will start a potential Game 6 instead.
“He’s fine,” Thomson said. “It’s just that it’s late in the season, the speed has dropped a bit, he’s tired. I just feel like he needs more time.
This means that Game 5 will be started by either Syndergaard (if not used in relief before then) or Kyle Gibson. It’s not quite an ideal situation for the Phillies, but if they’re also committed to this plan so early, well, that says a lot about how they view Wheeler right now.
Some other treats around the series:
• The Astros had a chance to practice batting and do some fielding drills before the rain set in on Monday. It was important, Baker said: Houston hasn’t played at Citizens Bank Park this year (or last year or the year before) and doesn’t have many players familiar with the stadium.
“I’m glad we practiced batting and played a few balls against the walls,” Baker said after the postponement was announced. “I think their real home field advantage is, like I saw JT Realmuto hit the home run inside the park [in the NLDS]. It hit the wall and bounced off. And I just think of their real advantage on the pitch, because they have a lot of angles, a lot of caroms there, that only three or four of our players have ever been in this stadium. So I’m glad we had the chance to train before it rained today.
How long have the Astros been around? Five years and change: July 26, 2017. The only Astros still on the roster who were in the lineup that day are Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel. The Phillies won, 9-0, on six shutout innings of none other than Aaron Nola.
• No one in this series has shown more impressive scoring ability than Phillies rookie shortstop Bryson Stott. He pinch-hit to lead the eighth inning of Game 2 and started off falling 0-2, which he then turned into a 12 pitches walking. He foul on six throws (five in a row) to stay alive.
“You kind of go into combat mode,” Stott says of his approach. “Hopefully he makes a mistake and if he doesn’t just try to mess up the throws he makes.”
The 12-pitch walk on Saturday followed a 10-pitch walk on Friday, which was key to that fourth-inning comeback for the Phillies, and some equally impressive board appearances earlier in the playoffs, including a nine-pitch one that resulted in a double in Game 3 of the NLDS. So far, the Phillies have generally limited Stott to facing right-handed throwing. Facing a left-handed starter, Philadelphia typically plays right-handed Edmundo Sosa at shortstop. Do you plan to change this?
“This kid, he’s been putting up some quality sticks for a while now, not only against right-handers but also against left-handers,” Thomson said of Stott Sunday. “So that’s something we’ll discuss as we get closer.” This will be game 6 [that we next face a left-hander], so we had some time to think about it. But he was really good.
Finally: Is 12 pitches the most the shortstop has ever seen in a plate appearance? In a real game, yes, he says, but Stott thinks he saw 16 pitches once in spring training.
• A last difficulty of an unexpected evening? It’s hard to find a place to dine, Baker said. “I heard it was hard to get reservations, everything is full,” the Astros skipper said. “So hopefully the guys can get reservations, get in and eat, be with their families and be ready to play tomorrow.”
More MLB coverage: