7:41 AM UTC
PHILADELPHIA — Home has been where the hurt 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’s supposed to belong to them.
So on Saturday night, when Game 6 of what has been an epic Fall Classic clash with the Phillies begins, the Astros — who enter with the 3-2 edge — have the opportunity to do something unusual not just for them but for MLB, of late. We actually haven’t seen a team clinch the title on its 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 hopes to close out one more, “and we get to [lift] that trophy over our heads. But the job’s not done right now. We’ve just got to keep going out there, having good at-bats, putting good quality pitches together, and let the chips fall where they may.”
Standing in their way is a Phillies squad that squandered its opportunity to seize this Series at Citizens Bank Park — first by getting no-hit by Cristian 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 ebbs and flows of the game, and sometimes you go through times when 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 got to keep battling, that’s all.”
This has been a Fall Classic that lives up to that name. In Game 6, with ace-type arms on the hill in the form of the Astros’ Framber Valdez and the Phillies’ Zack Wheeler, we’ll see if Philly can take it to the Game 7 this Series seems to deserve or if Houston can finally bring it home.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Game 6, which will air on FOX at 8 p.m. ET/7 CT, is scheduled for Saturday.
All games are available in the U.S. on MLB.TV (authentication to a participating Pay TV provider is required). Live games are also available in select countries outside the U.S. For full details, click here.
Who are the starting pitchers?
Phillies: Wheeler (1-2, 2.67 ERA in five postseason starts) will start Game 6 on six days of rest, after struggling and experiencing a drop in velocity in Game 2. Wheeler’s fastball velocity dropped from an average of 97 mph in his first four playoff starts to 95.2 mph on 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 is experiencing arm fatigue. After throwing a bullpen session Thursday in Philadelphia, he said he feels “good,” although he also said he is not sure if he will return to prior 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 of the World Series — with a chance to clinch the championship for Houston. In a Game 2 win over the Phillies on Saturday, he allowed one run on four hits and three walks, striking out nine in 6 1/3 innings. He’s 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’m just going to try to continue doing what I’ve been doing all season,” Valdez said. “Just try and attack hitters 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 excited for this opportunity.”
What might the starting lineups look like?
Phillies: Thomson has used a right-handed and a left-handed lineup throughout the postseason. The lineup vs. lefty starters includes center fielder Matt Vierling and shortstop Edmundo Sosa. But Thomson allowed the possibility that Bryson Stott could start Game 6 over Sosa because he has had quite a few long, quality at-bats in the playoffs. But until Thomson does that, we will assume he’ll continue with the lineup he has used against southpaws.
Astros: The big question is the health of first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who left Game 5 after straining his right knee in a collision during a rundown. It would be hard to imagine that would be enough to keep Gurriel out of the lineup in a potential clincher. Whether Trey Mancini, Aledmys Díaz or David Hensley starts at designated hitter is anyone’s guess.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Phillies: It will be an all-hands-on-deck situation in Game 6. It starts with Thomson’s most trusted high-leverage relievers, of course. But Thomson said Thursday they will not know if left-hander Ranger Suárez will start Game 7 (if necessary) on Sunday night, because there is a chance he will be needed to pitch before then. Would 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 has gone deep into its 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 a combined 45 pitches in Games 4 and 5, Montero threw 27 in the same span and Abreu threw 32. Héctor Neris, the Astros’ fourth high-leverage reliever this postseason, threw 11 pitches in Game 5 after not appearing in Game 4. If they need length, Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia are well-rested.
Phillies: Philadelphia is healthy entering Game 6, although Wheeler is experiencing right arm fatigue.
Astros: Gurriel left Game 5 in the eighth inning with right knee discomfort, which he suffered during a collision in a rundown an inning earlier. He’s expected to play in Game 6.
Who is hot and who is not?
Phillies: Philadelphia snapped a hitless streak of 20 at-bats with runners in scoring position with an eighth-inning single by Jean Segura. The Phils will need to do much better in Game 6 to force a decisive Game 7. … The bullpen has a 1.14 ERA in the World Series, striking out 28 and walking seven in 23 2/3 innings.
Astros: Peña, the ALCS MVP, is making a bid to win World Series MVP after going 8-for-21 with a homer and three RBIs in five games. … Altuve has shaken off his woeful playoff start by going 7-for-22 in the World Series, though he’s yet to drive in a run. … Gurriel is 6-for-19 in the World Series. … Among those who have scuffled 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 might want to know?
In postseason series with the current 2-3-2 format that have been tied 2-2, teams winning Game 5 on the road before going back home for Games 6 and 7 have finished off the series win 19 of 24 times (79%).
In this case, the Phillies would be looking to join this list:
Won 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