The Philadelphia Phillies entered the 2022 World Series as heavy underdogs to the dominant Houston Astros. As the 12th seed out of 12 teams in the postseason, the Phillies upset anyone in front of them en route to late October, including the Astros in Game 1. Houston bounced back in Game 2, but the series is headed to Citizens Bank Park for the next three games of the series.
Noah Syndergaard gets the ball for Game 3 against Lance McCullers Jr., a pitching matchup that advantages the Astros. All baseball pundits know that Syndergaard was unstoppable in his early years with the New York Mets, so he must rekindle that magic for Game 3 to give the upper hand to Philadelphia. It will be a challenging night for the Phillies, but here are three adjustments they can consider for Monday night.
3. The Phillies must further maximize their bullpen
Philadelphia’s bullpen wasn’t dominant during the regular season, but has been a revelation on the team’s run to the World Series. In Game 1 when the Astros pounded Aaron Nola, manager Rob Thomson kept his composure and made some astute decisions with his relief pitchers. That will likely be the case again for Game 3 as Syndergaard is not as reliable as Nola or Zach Wheeler.
Thomson has the weapons to face the likes of Yordan Alvarez and Alex Bregman, so he must continue executing precise decision-making in high-leverage situations. On a stage like the World Series, every decision is magnified, and his pitchers did not fold under pressure in Game 1. Ranger Suarez offered a prime example of performing under pressure when he was called on in Game 1 even though he was a possible starter later in the series. The Phillies needed a pitcher who could get them out of a job, and Suarez delivered.
2. Don’t get behind early
Philadelphia was playing from behind for the majority of the the first two games of the series. Yes, home-field advantage will be a boost to their morale when they are down, but will not be a factor every game. It was difficult for the Phillies to get consecutive hits on the phenomenal Framber Valdez in Game 2, and they must do better against McCullers on Monday.
With Houston being a very intelligent squad, they know how to pitch around the likes of Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber, so supporting pieces like Alec Bohm and Nick Castellanos must step up once again in Game 3. When the raucous crowd starts cheering on their Phillies, it will drastically affect their opponent, similar to how Citizens Bank Park impacted the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.
1. Play small ball in certain instances
With the Astros well-known as having a sensational pitching staff, it is rare for them to make a mistake that would spiral into consecutive runs for their opponent. It happened in Game 1 against Justin Verlander, who has been disappointing in his World Series career. Philadelphia cannot count on that type of onslaught every game, as evidenced when Valdez struck out nine batters in 6 1/3 inning in Game 2.
A Rob Thomson-managed team is smart, so they could execute a few sacrifice bunts or safety squeezes in the next few games. The Phillies have players in their lineup who would not hesitate performing these courageous strategies at random junctures of the game. With the Astros composed of more talent and skill, Philadelphia might have to rely on IQ and quick decision-making to take Game 3.
The Phillies are in for a tough ride, but they must keep themselves in striking distance before Nola and Wheeler take the mound once again.