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2022 World Series: Ben Verlander’s keys to Phillies-Astros Game 6

HOUSTON — Game 6 of the World Series presents an opportunity for one team to celebrate and the other to survive.

The Houston Astros can claim their second World Series title in franchise history with the series back in their home ballpark. The Philadelphia Phillies are fighting to force a Game 7. 

Saturday night will feature a rematch of Game 2, at least in terms of starting pitchers. The Phillies are calling upon Zack Wheeler to extend their season, while the Astros are turning to Framber Valdez, who got the win last Saturday.

Philadelphia Phillies

PHI

Houston Astros

HOU

Here are my Game 6 keys to victory for each team (8:03 p.m., FOX and the FOX Sports App):

Philadelphia Phillies

1. Pull Wheeler at the first sign of struggle

Wheeler’s mentioned that he’s been dealing with some arm fatigue and the results show it. The average velocity of his fastball went from 97 mph in his first four postseason starts to 95.2 mph in Game 2, when he gave up four earned runs over five innings. 

Wheeler’s also struggled all season the deeper he works into games. He holds a 1.38 ERA in the first inning and a 1.73 ERA in the second inning. He’s remained solid through the third inning, posting a 2.42 ERA, but begins to tail off in the fourth inning with a 3.96 ERA. The wheels come of for Wheeler by the fifth inning, where he had a 5.16 ERA in the regular season.

2. Have all hands on deck

The Phillies season is on the line and they need to act like it. Ranger Suárez, Aaron Nola, Jose Alvarado and more should all be ready to pitch if need be in Game 6.

Luckily for Philadelphia, its bullpen has been solid so far in the World Series, posting a 1.14 ERA in 23 2/3 innings pitched. But the Phillies perform well when Suárez pitches this offseason, going 5-0 in games he’s pitched (three starts and two relief outings). 

With Friday’s off day, much of the Phillies’ bullpen should be fresh for Saturday’s game. Seranthony Dominguez has pitched only once in the last week, while Alvarado, David Robertson, and Zach Eflin each pitched in Games 4 and 5 but had a day to recover. 

Houston Astros

1. Drive up Wheeler’s pitch count

We went over how poor Wheeler’s numbers get as the game progresses. The Astros need to make Wheeler work as much as possible. 

The right-handed starter hasn’t reached the century mark in pitches yet in a game this postseason. In fact, he hasn’t thrown more than 96 pitches in a start since he returned from a right forearm injury in late September, making eight starts in that stretch. 

2. Valdez builds on Game 2 start

The Astros’ bats got to Wheeler in Game 2, but it was Valdez that allowed fans in Houston to feel comfortable for much of the night. The hard-throwing lefty allowed just one run on four hits, three walks, and nine strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings pitched in Game 2, with the one run coming after Valdez was removed from the game.

Game 2’s performance has become what’s expected from Valdez. After going 17-6 with a 2.82 ERA in the regular season, the All-Star is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA and 24 strikeouts over three starts in the postseason. 


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