The Phillies have a challenging series ahead against the Dusty Baker-led Astros.
The Philadelphia Phillies were supposed to open the 2022 regular season on the road against the Houston Astros on March 31. Instead, the delayed spring training pushed the three-game series to the opposite end of the 162-game schedule.
And even with the No. 1 seed, home-field advantage, and a Wild Card series bye clinched, the Astros did not appear to be taking their foot off of the gas pedal. According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, 25-year veteran manager Dusty Baker has announced that the Astros will start Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1, 2.38 ERA), Justin Verlander (17-4, 1.80 ERA), and Framber Valdez (16-6, 2.89 ERA) in their upcoming series against the Phillies.
For the “integrity of the game,” Baker has also committed to playing all of the Astros’ regular starters. It’s almost as if Baker is making these decisions as “payback” for the Phillies passing on him in their managerial search. They instead hired 2009 World Series-winning skipper Joe Girardi, who was relieved of his duties in early June.
Unless the Phillies win each of their next three games against the Washington Nationals — and the Milwaukee Brewers lose each of their next two against the Miami Marlins — interim manager Rob Thomson’s squad will need to win at least one of the games against the Astros, who have a Major League Baseball second-best 102 wins entering Saturday.
If the Phillies finish the season 6-0 or 5-1, fate will be in their own hands and they will snap what is currently the longest postseason drought in Major League Baseball — a title given to them Friday evening after the Seattle Mariners hit a walk-off home run to secure a Wild Card series appearance. If the Phillies finish the season 4-2, 3-3, 2-4, 1-5, or 0-6, the Brewers would respectively need to go 5-0, 4-1, 3-2, 2-3, or 1-4. Milwaukee’s final three games will be against the National League West’s Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Phillies recently getting swept by the Cubs put them in a deeper-than-necessary hole — and an almost must-win scenario in the next three games against the Nationals, who have a Major League-worst 102 losses entering Saturday’s scheduled doubleheader.
Yet another late-season collapse and would not be taken lightly among the Phils fanbase. For now, the club needs to take one game at a time — and hope for some extra luck along with the way.