Welcome to 2021. Yes, we’re still alive. Also, the Phillies are in the World Series against the 2017 and 2019 world champion Houston Astros. The ‘stros hope to parlay their Odd Year Magic into a third title, while the Phils are in the World Series for the first time since 2009. They made the playoffs in 2020, beating the wild-card-winning Chicago Cubs in the National League Division Series before dropping the League Championship Series to the Damn St. Louis Cardinals.
But this year they came back with a vengeance, beating the Brewers in the LDS and Braves in the LCS.
Now it’s time for the World Series. Phillies vs. Astros.
(Also, we have Manny Machado, Mike Trout, Marcus Stroman and Carlos Carrasco now).
Enjoy this gaze into the hazy future!
PHILADELPHIA — The loss to the Astros in Game 1 of the World Series was bad enough for Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.
But after the game, he was even more concerned about a loss of a different kind: the possible loss of his MVP candidate.
Marcus Stroman got lit up by the league’s best offense on a cold, rainy night where the gametime temperature was 42 degrees, dropped to 35 by 10 p.m. and the Phillies couldn’t get anything going against two-time Cy Young and 22-game winner Dallas Keuchel, dropping Game 1 of the World Series 8-1.
But the loss more pressing to Kapler, who helped push the Phillies to 94 regular season wins and playoff series wins over the Brewers and division-mate Braves, was that of Manny Machado.
The stinging fifth-inning departure of the third baseman could be a series-killer for the Phils. He tried to beat out a ground ball to deep short, but grabbed the back of his leg, limped back to the dugout under his own power and never returned. Machado, who hit a career-high 47 home runs and is almost assured of a Gold Glove after committing just two errors at third base all year, had to be lifted from the game and had already been taken for an MRI before the game ended.
Kapler said he hasn’t heard the results of the MRI as of late into the night, but expects to hear by morning.
“I know what you guys know. And what we know is what we saw,” the manager said after the game, the edgiest he had seemed to the media since his August dust-up with Philadelphia media personality Howard Eskin, who tried to trip Kapler with the cane he’s been using since knee surgery caused by an injury on the Philadelphia Eagles’ sideline, when Jay Ajayi “accidentally” plowed into him after a 21-yard run. “And what we saw … that didn’t look good.”
The teams played in a steady, nearly freezing drizzle that caused both Kapler and Astros manager A.J. Hinch to question whether the game should even be played. The rain pelted down hard enough in the fourth inning that the managers and umpires met at home plate to discuss it, but the umpires decided to press on. With the steady rain forecast all night, the umpires said a rain delay wouldn’t help and they didn’t believe it necessitated stopping the game, according to both managers.
One inning later, Machado went down.
“I’m not going to get into that discussion of whether there is a correlation between those two events,” a head-shaking Kapler said while drinking a strawberry protein shake, the third one he chugged during his 15-minute press conference. “That’s for you guys to decide. I will say that I was in favor of a delay or even coming back tomorrow to play. But it’s not up to me.”
Hinch empathized with the Phillies’ plight, but said this was the Astros’ night.
“They could have brought Ted Williams out of his cryogenic freezing chamber tonight and gotten him into the lineup, but it wouldn’t have mattered,” Hinch said. “Dallas was on.”
Keuchel threw an economical 95 pitches in seven innings, striking out just five, but walking none and inducing an astonishing 14 ground balls. It wasn’t until the fourth inning that the Phillies got a ball to the outfield, and they didn’t have a baserunner until the sixth inning. Then, J.P. Crawford doubled to lead off the inning, and two batters later, scored the team’s lone run on a throwing error by Keuchel off a grounder by Derek Dietrich.
The Astros had no such issue with Marcus Stroman, acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018 and who has blossomed into one of the National League’s best pitchers since then. Constantly fiddling with the wet baseball and mound dirt on this night, he somehow escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first. But he then coughed up three second-inning runs on three walks and just one hit – a two-out, bases-clearing triple from Carlos Correa, the back-to-back MVP who scored the highest contract extension ever awarded last offseason.
The Astros would chase Stroman in the fourth with four more runs. That included a three-run bomb from Derek Fisher, who grew up a Phillies fan in Lebanon, about 90 miles west of Philadelphia.
“This is what I dreamed of as a kid, playing in Citizens Bank Park in the World Series. Being part of the Astros wasn’t part of the dream,” he joked. “I pictured the fans being a little louder when I hit a home run. Other than that, this was exactly how I dreamed it.”
The man who received the biggest free agent contract in baseball history last offseason – Phillies center fielder Mike Trout – flamed out in his World Series debut. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, left four men on base and made a costly misplay of Correa’s triple in the second that could have helped Stroman escape the trouble he created.
“That’s on me,” Trout said after the game. “(Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback) Carson (Wentz) was sitting behind me in the outfield and was trying to say something, but I couldn’t hear him. It sounded like, “Good luck!” but I couldn’t really tell. When I turned around to say, ‘What?’ I heard the crack of the bat. I thought I could still get to it, but then Carson threw that football to me, and I got distracted. I’m not going to say something like this won’t happen again, because you never know. But me and Carson are going to be having a talk about his behavior tonight, believe you me.”
Despite the random footballs being thrown on the field at that crucial time, all anyone wanted to talk about after the game was Machado’s injury and his status for the remainder of the series.
“We’re not ruling him out,” Kapler said. “But we won’t know until tomorrow whether he’ll play.”
Tomorrow: It’s Aaron Nola on the hill in an attempt to tie the 2021 World Series.