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World Series preview: the bullpens

Strike one, strike two, and good luck

MLB: San Diego Padres at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time not too long ago where the phrase “Phillies bullpen” was nothing short of a meme. Thanks to the return of Seranthony Dominguez and the ascension of José Alvarado, the Phils arm barn is more than formidable. It has even come to the point where we are previewing them in the 2022 World Series.

On the Houston side of things, the bullpen has been a strength of theirs throughout the entirety of the regular season. Lead by former Phillie Hector Neris, this bullpen is deep and can work overtime, if a starter is forced out early.

Houston Astros

Bryan Abreu: 6 G, 6 13 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 10 K, 2 BB, 0.00 ERA

Hunter Brown: 3 G, 3 23 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 K, 3 BB, 0.00 ERA

Luis Garcia: 1 G, 5 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 6 K, 0 BB. 0.00 ERA

Seth Martinez: *Has not pitched in 2022 postseason; was on ALCS roster

Rafael Montero: 3 G, 5 13 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 6 K, 3 BB, 1.69 ERA

Hector Neris: 5 G, 4 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 5 K, 0 BB, 2.25 ERA

Ryan Pressly: 5 G, 5 13 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 8 K, 2 BB, 0.00 ERA, 4 SV

Ryan Stanek: 2 G, 2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 4 K, 0 BB, 0.00 ERA

José Uriquidy: *Has not pitched in 2022 postseason; was on ALCS roster

Will Smith: *Has not pitched in 2022 postseason or been on playoff roster

The Astros bullpen throughout the 2022 postseason has been nearly unhittable. They have allowed just two earned runs as a group in 31 and 23 innings of work. Luis Garcia has only been used once, during the eighteen inning marathon in Seattle, in which he tossed five scoreless frames. As soon as Houston can snatch a lead after the fifth inning or so, they turn it over to their high leverage arms, and they sure have plenty of ‘em. Hector Neris is typically first out of the pen, followed by some combination of Bryan Abreu or Rafael Montero. Ryan Pressly has firmly asserted himself as the team’s closer, locking down all four of his save opportunities in the playoffs. He was also 33/37 in save chances during the regular season. While they are yet to use a left-hander out of the pen in the postseason, these righties have been more than effective in silencing left-handed hitters. Will Smith could be an add to the World Series roster, but even then he was relatively ineffective in the regular season.

Who’s hot

The whole bullpen. All of them. Hector Neris allowed a solo home run in Game Four of the ALCS, accounting for his only earned run. Rafael Montero has also allowed a home run, accounting for the other earned run of the postseason allowed by this group. The two earned runs, were both solo shots that did not effect the outcome of the game.

Who’s not

If we have to really reach, we could say Hector Neris is not hot, as he allowed the solo homer in his most recent appearance. Seth Martinez and Jose Urquidy probably won’t pitch unless the Phillies are beating the Astros into oblivion, so I guess they aren't hot.

Philadelphia Phillies

José Alvarado: 8 G, 8 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 9 K, 4 BB, 3.38 ERA

Brad Hand: 5 G, 3 23 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 K, 1 BB, 7.36 ERA

David Robertson: 4 G, 3 23 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 6 K, 2 BB, 2.45 ERA

Connor Brogdon: 4 G, 4 23 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 6 K, 2 BB, 3.86 ERA

Zach Eflin: 6 G, 6 13 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 6 K, 1 BB, 5.68 ERA

Seranthony Dominguez: 6 G, 7 23 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 15 K, 0 BB, 1.17 ERA

Kyle Gibson: 1 G, 1 13 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 K, 1 BB, 0.00 ERA

Andrew Bellatti: 5 G, 4 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 6 K, 1 BB, 2.25 ERA

Noah Syndergaard: 3 G, 1 GS, 5 13 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 4 K, 1 BB, 1.69 ERA

Where would this Phillies bullpen be without José Alvarado’s ascension to greatness? The answer is probably out of the postseason. After Corey Knebel was shutdown for the year and Jeurys Familia was DFA’d, the hope was for David Robertson to be the gatekeeper of the late innings. While Robertson’s numbers have been solid, he has been a bit inconsistent at times. Alvarado and Dominguez have allowed Rob Thomson to manage games aggressively and to lift his starters earlier than expected. Zach Eflin has also been a bit inconsistent this postseason, being hit around the yard, but showing off decent command.

Who’s hot

Seranthony Dominguez. The 27-year-old flamethrower has been nearly perfect in his 7 and 23 innings of work this postseason. It’s hard to hold the NLCS Game Five performance against him, as the sloppy conditions prevented Dominguez from getting a proper grip on the baseball. With fifteen strikeouts and no walks, Dominguez is the ultimate postseason weapon, even showing ability to throw two innings in one outing.

Who’s not

The last man standing of the three offseason reliever signings that cost the Phils $22 million, has gone ice cold in the postseason. Brad Hand had been brought in to face left-handed hitters twice in the Padres series, with both backfiring. He did not record an out in Game Two, hitting Jake Cronenworth before allowing back-to-back singles that drove in a combined three runs. Hand also allowed a two-run homer to Juan Soto in Game Four. There is even a chance that Hand is removed from the roster and replaced by Cristopher Sanchez, but that will not be announced until Friday.


Houston had the best bullpen ERA in baseball in 2022 at just 2.80. This was thanks in part to a 1.14 WHIP, as they displayed exceptional command (4th lowest walk rate) throughout the season. The Phillies bullpen ERA sat at 4.27 for the regular season, a tough number to stomach, but one that has not mattered much this postseason.

The Astros undoubtedly have more quality arms than the Phils, but the Phillies may have a better top two than the Stros. There is not a lot of room for error in the Philadelphia bullpen, as seen in Game Five of the NLCS where Ranger Suarez was needed to close it out. They won’t have that luxury early in the series, whereas Houston can afford an occasional slip up as they have a plethora of reputable arms ready to go.

Andrew Bellatti and Connor Brogdon have been fine for the Phils, but they remain a bit harder to trust than someone like Hector Neris or Bryan Abreu on the Astros side.

The edge in the bullpen matchup goes to Houston, thanks to their depth. However, Seranthony Dominguez and José Alvarado have the edge over Ryan Pressly and Rafael Montero in the back end of the pen.