The 2022 MLB postseason is reaching its conclusion with the World Series set to get underway on Friday. The Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros will collide in a series that has a David versus Goliath feel to it. Although each team has stampeded through their opponents to this point, the playoff experience and success the Astros have displayed for several years now vaults them into a tier that was formerly unbeknownst in the league for quite some time. They have yet to lose a single game this postseason, going a perfect 7-0 and making a trip to their fourth World Series in six seasons.
For the Phillies, they have embraced the underdog label that many had stamped on their team. Entering the playoffs as the third wild card team in the National League, their bats have sparked an improbable run, capturing their first NL pennant since winning back to back in 2008 and 2009.
In a familiar playoff matchup, the Astros faced off against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. This was the fourth playoff matchup between the two clubs since 2015, with Houston advancing each occasion. The first two games of the series were played at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
In Game 1, a second-inning solo home run from Harrison Bader gave New York the early advantage. Houston would tie the game in the bottom of the inning on an RBI double from Martin Maldonado. Solo home runs from Yuli Gurriel and Chas McCormick gave the Astros the lead in the sixth inning. A home run from Jeremy Pena expanded the lead to 4-1 in the seventh inning. Attempting to stage a late comeback, Anthony Rizzo cut the lead to two on a home run of his own, but the Yankees failed to score again, falling by a 4-2 final tally. Justin Verlander was superb, pitching six innings and allowing just one run on three hits while striking out 11. After getting the final out in the eighth inning, Ryan Pressly pitched a perfect ninth inning and notched the save.
The Astros’ offense broke through in a big way early in Game 2. Alex Bregman cranked a three-run home run off Luis Severino to snap a scoreless tie in the third inning. Almost immediately after, the Yankees rallied for two runs in the fourth inning. An RBI groundout from Rizzo followed by an RBI single from Gleyber Torres cut the lead to just one. Neither team would score again, however. Framber Valdez pitched a gem, going seven innings without allowing an earned run and striking out nine. Pressly collected his second consecutive save, punching out three in the process.
The series flipped to New York with the Yankees in desperation mode, needing to turn things around. Game 3 was no different for the Bronx Bombers. A two-run home run by McCormick that followed an outfield miscue from Bader and Aaron Judge gave Houston the early advantage. A sixth-inning rally from the Astros chased Gerrit Cole out of the game. He allowed three straight batters to reach, loading the bases with no outs. This forced the hand of manager Aaron Boone, as Lou Trivino was called on to replace the Yankees ace. Trivino allowed all three runners to score, expanding the Houston lead to 5-0. A total of six different Houston pitchers contributed to a three-hit shutout of the Yankees offense, fanning 11 total batters.
The rain-filled skies clouding Yankee Stadium on Sunday foreshadowed what was to come for the Yankees ahead of Game 4. In an already dreary atmosphere in the stands, Yankee fans were clinging to their last bit of hope, needing a miracle to stave off elimination once again.
New York jumped ahead early, stringing together several hits off of Lance McCullers in the first two innings and taking a 3-0 lead. As they so frequently do, the Houston lineup erupted, scoring four times in the third inning. Capping off a heroic series that netted him the ALCS MVP, Pena hit a game-tying three-run home run into the left field bleachers off Nestor Cortes. The Astros would score again in the inning, taking the lead on an RBI single from Gurriel. A fourth-inning RBI single from Rizzo would tie the game at four. The Yankees regained the lead on a solo shot from Bader who hit five postseason home runs, matching his regular-season total. A pair of RBI singles from Yordan Alvarez and Bregman swung the game one more time, as Houston took a 6-5 advantage.
Down to their final out of the season, Judge was unable to come through for the Yankees as he did so many times during his record-breaking season, grounding out to end the game. The Yankees have failed to make the World Series yet again in 2022, as an offseason of uncertainty ensues.
In the National League, a matchup that not many would have predicted came to fruition. The Phillies went head-to-head with the San Diego Padres in the National League Championship Series. Especially considering the journey that each team endured to reach the NLCS, this was an improbable collision.
In Game 1 of the series at Petco Park, the dominance of Zack Wheeler was on full display. The right-hander pitched seven innings, allowing just a single hit and no runs with eight strikeouts. Seranthony Dominguez and Jose Alvarado each tossed a perfect inning in relief, with Alvarado nothing the save. Offensively, the game was rather quiet. A solo home run from Bryce Harper gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. A mammoth home run to the second deck in right field from Kyle Schwarber in the sixth inning doubled the lead. The majestic shot was measured an estimated 488 feet and was hit over 120 mph. Philadelphia would go on to win 2-0, taking the early advantage in the series.
San Diego bounced back emphatically in Game 2. Left-hander Blake Snell was lit up for four runs in the second inning, giving the Phillies a big early lead. After being shut out the day prior, the deficit felt nearly insurmountable for the Padres. However, the offense responded quickly, cutting the lead in half on back-to-back home runs by Brandon Drury and Josh Bell in the bottom half of the second. Fast forward to the fifth inning, San Diego’s lineup began humming. They rallied for five runs and six hits off Aaron Nola and Brad Hand, taking a 7-4 lead. A solo home run from Manny Machado made it 8-4 in the seventh inning, and San Diego would hang on to win 8-5, evening the series.
As it did in the NLDS against Atlanta, home-field advantage for Philadelphia proved to be a difference maker. Kyle Schwarber hit a leadoff home run in the first inning of Game 3 for the Phillies, sending the already amped-up crowd at Citizens Bank Park into a frenzy. The Padres tied the game in the fourth inning, benefiting from a fielding error by Jean Segura. The veteran shortstop quickly put the defensive mishap behind him, as he singled in two runs in the bottom half of the inning to immediately give Philadelphia the lead back. San Diego scored on a Ha-Seong Kim groundout in the fifth inning that cut the lead to one. The Phillies got the run back on an RBI double by Alec Bohm in the sixth inning. Dominguez pitched two scoreless innings, picking up the save and giving the Phillies a 2-1 series lead.
Game 4 turned out to be an eventful contest, with immediate scoring from both clubs in the first inning. A solo home run from Machado put the Padres in front, but they were far from finished. A single from Bell, followed by a Jake Cronenworth walk brought Brandon Drury to the plate. He doubled both runners in, making it a 3-0 game. Drury scored on an RBI single from Kim, giving San Diego the early 4-0 cushion. In the bottom of the inning, Rhys Hoskins hit a two-run shot to make it 4-2. An RBI double from Harper made it 4-3 at the end of the first inning. The game was evened at four a piece on a Bryson Stott RBI single before Juan Soto launched a screaming two-run home run to right field in the fifth inning, giving San Diego the lead.
From that point on, it was all Philadelphia.
The red-hot bat of Hoskins continued to rake, hitting his second two-run home run of the game and deadlocking the game at six through the fifth inning. Another RBI double from Harper gave the Phillies their first lead of the game. Nick Castellanos followed it up with a run-scoring hit of his own, scoring Harper and expanding the lead to 8-6. Solo home runs from Schwarber and JT Realmuto later in the game provided some insurance for Philadelphia. They wound up not needing it as the Padres would fail to score again and they took the game 10-6, one win away from the World Series.
Similar to New York on Sunday, the weather was far from ideal as rain poured down in Philadelphia during Game 5. On the contrary to New York, however, the City of Brotherly Love was buzzing as they had a chance to witness a pennant-clinching win at home.
In the third inning, Hoskins continued to torture the left field bleachers this postseason. He cranked another two-run home run to put the Phillies ahead 2-0. A fourth-inning home run by Soto made it a one-run game. After Wheeler exited with a runner on first and no outs in the seventh inning, a wild pitch from Dominguez followed by an RBI double from Bell tied the game at two. After a pair of strikeouts, two more wild pitches scored Bell and gave the Padres a 3-2 lead. It was a forgetful frame for Dominguez who had otherwise been dominant in relief for Philadelphia all season long, especially in the postseason.
The eighth inning will forever be remembered in Philadelphia.
Following a leadoff single by Realmuto, Harper stepped up to the plate and delivered his most iconic moment as a major leaguer. He sliced a go-ahead opposite-field two-run home run to left field off Robert Suarez to put the Phillies ahead. The signature swing from the reigning NL MVP sent the crowd into sheer pandemonium. Ranger Suarez picked up the save in the ninth inning, sending the Phillies to the World Series.
Each team will get four full days of rest between their series-clinching wins on Sunday and Game 1 of the World Series on Friday. The series will start in Houston for the first two games on Friday and Saturday. Philadelphia will host the next three games beginning Monday, Oct. 31 through Wednesday, Nov. 2. If the series is still undecided, Houston will host the final two games on Friday, Nov. 4 and Saturday, Nov. 5. This is the first World Series matchup between the two franchises.