October 28, 2022 [LINK / comment]
Phillies, Astros clinch pennants with ease
By the time the sun set on Saturday, it was looking almost inevitable that the Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros were going to win their respective league championship series. After splitting the first two games in San Diego, the Phillies won all three of their NLCS games at home in Citizens Bank Park. They won Game 5 by a score of 4-3 thanks to a two-run homer by Bryce Harper in the bottom of the eighth inning. Harper was named NLCS Most Valuable Player, who is batting .419 this postseason, with five (5) home runs. Any player who is on a hot streak like that has to be considered dangerous, and when he is on a team with someone like Kyle Schwarber, the opposing team needs to be extra cautious.
Trying to recover from a 2-0 series deficit, the Yankees looked almost helpless back on their home turf in the Bronx. In Game 3, their ace pitcher Gerritt Cole gave up a two-run homer in the second inning, and the Astros ended up with a 5-0 shutout victory. In Game 4, the Yankees took an early 3-0 lead, but when the Astros took a 4-3 in the third inning, you could almost feel the sense of doom. The Yankees came back to tie it and then took a 5-4 lead in the sixth inning thanks to a homer by Harrison Bader, but then the Astros rallied to take the lead for good in the seventh inning, winning the game 6-5, and sweeping the series. It was the first time the Yankees had been swept in a postseason series since the 2012 ALCS, which the Detroit Tigers won.
The last time a team swept a league championship series was in 2019, when the Washington Nationals did so to the St. Louis Cardinals. The last time the two winning teams combined only lost a single league championship series game was in 2014 when the Royals swept the Orioles, and the Giants almost swept the Cardinals. The last time both teams swept the league championship series was in 1975, when the Red Sox swept the A's and the Reds swept the Pirates, but those were merely 3-0 sweeps, not 4-0. (The LCS was in a best-of-5 format until 1985.) Oddly, the first two LCS matchups (1969 and 1970) in both leagues were decided by sweeps.
So, can the Phillies beat the Astros in the World Series? They certainly have them momentum after pulling upset wins in three series thus far in October, but the Astros appear to be a rock-solid indomitable force to be reckoned with. Tonight the Phillies' Aaron Nola (3.25 regular season ERA) faces off against the Astros' Justin Verlander (1.75 regular season ERA), who, it should be noted, lost both games he started against the Nationals in the 2019 World Series.
Comparing the ballparks
As is my annual custom, I present the home ballparks of the two World Series teams, for easy comparison. There are clear contrasts between the two stadiums (Minute Maid Park and Citizens Bank Park) once again, but there are also strong similarities. Both of them feature short distances to the foul poles and deeper-than average corners in the vicinity of center field. Including 2022, Minute Maid Park has hosted the World Series in four of the last six years, a remarkable achievement for the Astros.
There is a brand-new page for everyone to enjoy: Postseason chronology, which shows each franchise's World Series records for each decade since the beginning of the 20th Century. As explained at the bottom, that page will eventually show all their postseason records, including the League Championship Series and Divisional Series. It has a new feature that I have been planning for a long time: color coded franchise names, based on their (approximate) present-day color schemes.
World Series 2021 wrapup on November 4, 2021